What are some differences between how a Sephardi Passover is celebrated and how an Ashkenazi Passover is celebrated ?
Note: Regarding all dates on this Sephardic and Ashkenazic Passover / Pesach Differences web page, see the footnote near the bottom of this web page.
Sephardic, Sephardi, Sephardim - The descriptive Hebrew term "Sephardic", the singular Hebrew form "Sephardi" and the plural Hebrew form "Sephardim" are all derived from the ancient Biblical place name "Sepharad" [Obadiah 1:20; the Hebrew place name "Sepharad" was originally identified as a district located near the Bosphorus in Asia Minor (now in Turkey), but was later identified by Jewish biblical commentators in the Middle Ages (Rashi, Ibn Ezra) as Ispamia (either Spain or the Iberian Peninsula, meaning both Spain and Portugal)], which, as just mentioned, came to be associated with either Spain or the Iberian Peninsula as a whole, meaning both Spain and Portugal. Today, Jews who live in, or whose ancestors came from either Spain and/or Portugal before the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition expulsions of the Jews from those countries in 1492 and 1497 respectively, or Jews who were influenced by and adopted the entire complex of Sepharad culture, including the prayer rites ("nusach", "nusah" or "nusakh" in Hebrew), legal concepts, mores, religious traditions, etc. are culturally known as "Sephardic Jews", singularly known as a "Sephardi Jew", and collectively referred to as either "Sepharad", "Sephardi Jews", "Sephardic Jews" or "Sephardim" (the plural form in Hebrew of "Sephardi", where the plural Hebrew form "Sephardim" originally referred to the "Inhabitants of Sepharad", the place name mentioned in Obadiah 1:20 of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, but later on referred to either the "Inhabitants of Spain" or to the "Inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula", meaning both Spain and Portugal).
Ashkenazic, Ashkenazi, Ashkenazim - The descriptive Hebrew term "Ashkenazic", the singular Hebrew form "Ashkenazi" and the plural form "Ashkenazim" are all derived from the Hebrew word "Ashkenaz", which was the medieval Hebrew term for "Germany", although the word "Ashkenaz" was originally mentioned in the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible as the designation of a son of Gomer and a grandson of Japheth (Genesis 10:3). "Ashkenazim" originally referred to Jews who lived in and/or currently live in Germany and in German-controlled areas of Europe since the Early to Middle Ages, beginning with the settlement of the Jews in the Rhineland area of Germany I.E. the German-Jews, with the singular form "Ashkenazi" referring to a German-Jew. The Ashkenazim or German-Jews created an entire culture of their own, including prayer rites ("nusach", "nusah" or "nusakh" in Hebrew), legal concepts, mores, religious traditions, etc. With the eventual migration of the Ashkenazim from the Rhineland area of Germany to other areas of Germany and to other countries and Jewish communities in Central, Northwestern, and Eastern Europe, the cultural and religious influence of the Ashkenazim on the Jews who had already settled in Central, Northwestern, and Eastern Europe extended the definition of "Ashkenazim" from simply referring to German-Jews who adopted Ashkenazi culture or Ashkenazic culture to include all Jews who lived in or who currently live in Central, Northwestern, and Eastern European countries who also adopted Ashkenazi culture or Ashkenazic culture. In addition, Jews whose ancestors came from Central, Northwestern, or Eastern Europe who adopted the entire complex of Ashkenazi culture or Ashkenazic culture, including the prayer rites ("nusach", "nusah" or "nusakh" in Hebrew), legal concepts, mores, religious traditions, etc. of the German-Jews or Ashkenazim are geographically and culturally known as either "Ashkenaz", "Ashkenazim", "Ashkenazi Jews", or "Ashkenazic Jews", singularly known as an "Ashkenazi Jew" or "Ashkenazic Jew", and collectively referred to as "Ashkenazim" (as mentioned, the plural form of "Ashkenazi").
There are also Yemenite Jews (Jews from Yemen), Asiatic or Oriental Jews [Jews from Central, South, and Eastern Asia, and the Middle East, known as "Mizrahi" Jews (plural form: "Mizrahim" in Hebrew); "Mizrahi" means "Eastern" in Hebrew, referring to Jews who have lived in or currently live in the Middle East and Asia who have created and preserved their own cultural and religious customs and traditions in Judaism dating back to when they settled into their own communities in the Middle East and Asia], Romaniote Jews (Romaniote Jews are Jews that have lived in Greece since the time of Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C.E. They speak Greek and have Greek sounding names and also speak a local patois of Judeo-Greek. The Romanites were overwhelmed by the influx of Spanish Jews in 1492, who fled Spain during the peak of the Spanish Inquisition and thus most Romanites were absorbed into the Sephardic culture though several pockets of Romaniote culture remained in Greece, most notably in Ioannina (Yanina) and Crete. The name "Romaniotes" appears to come from "Roman", denoting Jews who were part of the Roman Empire.), Ethiopian Jews (Jews from Ethiopia), and many other African Jews whose linguistic, musical and culinary customs are different from those of the Sephardim and Ashkenazim and from each other, including their customs relating to Passover. Each has integrated the influences of linguistic, musical and culinary traditions in their countries into their celebration of Passover.
Here is a list of the differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Passover practices. This list concentrates on differences in relation to the dietary laws of Halachah and rabbinical opinions, and includes some differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Passover customs. To read about additional differences in Passover customs and traditions between Sephardim and Ashkenazim, just click on the: Sephardic Passover Customs and Traditions page, and Ashkenazic Passover Customs and Traditions page, respectively.
Sephardic and Ashkenazic Passover differences in the dietary laws of Halachah are mainly with the subject of kitniyot/kitniot - the Sephardic pronounciation - or kitniyos/kitnios - the Ashkenazic pronounciation [kitniyot/kitniot or kitniyos/kitnios is approximately translated as "bits" in Hebrew; singular form: "kitnit" or "kitneet" (Sephardic pronounciation) and "kitnis" or "kitnees" (Ashkenazic pronounciation)], that is, with the permission or prohibition against eating kitniyot/kitniyos (generally speaking, kitniyot/kitniyos are small fleshless seeds of annual plants that an individual might ground into flour), and their derivatives in other products. Kitniyot/Kitniyos can be ground into flour and baked and/or cooked in a similar manner as the five grains that can become chametz (barley, spelt, rye, oats, and wheat). Examples of kitniyot/kitniyos include: ascorbic acid, calcium ascorbate, caraway seeds, castor sugar, chick peas, citric acid, corn, custard powder, dextrose, dried beans, dried peas, glucose, green beans, icing sugar, lecithin, lentils, mustard, rice, sesame seeds, soya beans, soya products, starch, sunflower seeds, tofu, and their derivatives in food and beverage products. Sephardim follow the opinion of the Bait Yosef (or Beit Yosef), written by Rabbi Joseph Karo (16th century, Israel), which permits the use of kitniyot/kitniyos in Passover cooking and its consumption during Passover. Most, but not all of the Sephardim use kitniyot/kitniyos in their Passover cooking and consume kitniyot/kitniyos during the Passover festival. It varies from community to community. Ashkenazim follow the opinion of "The Smak" (an acronym for Rabbi Moshe of Kouchi, 13th century, France), an Ashkenazic rabbi who stated that the products of kitniyot/kitniyos look like products from chametz. Chametz includes leavened foods, drinks and ingredients that are made from or contain wheat, rye, barley, oats or spelt. In addition, leavening agents such as yeast are also considered to be chametz. Therefore, all grain products such as breads, cereals and other breakfast foods, grain alcohol, grain vinegar and malts, are forbidden during Passover. For instance, rice flour (kitniyot/kitniyos) might be difficult to distinguish from wheat flour (chametz). So to prevent this potential confusion, all kitniyot/kitniyos were banned for Ashkenazim. Later on, Rabbi Moshe Isserlis (16th century, Poland), who is known as the "Ramah", supported the prohibition by "The Smak" and banned the consumption of any foodstuffs or foodstuffs made with kitniyot/kitniyos. Why is there a prohibition of kitniyot/kitniyos on Passover with the Ashkenazic Rabbis? In medieval Europe, grains that fell into the kitniyot/kitniyos category were sometimes made into a fine powder and then baked like a bread. Since Jewish law stated that matzah must be made using leavening flour that was ground from any of the five leavening grains (barley, oats, rye, spelt, and wheat), there was a concern on the part of the rabbis that the general public would confuse the non-leavening kitniyot/kitniyos flour with the leavening (chametz or leavened) flour of the 5 forbidden grains (barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt), and so the safest thing to do was to ban the use of kitniyot/kitniyos altogether. Another reason for the ban was that foods other than matzah that were made with kitniyot/kitniyos might be confused with foods that were made with chametz (the 5 forbidden grains) and anything made with chametz grains outside of making matzah with chametz grains was forbidden during the Passover festival. As a result, the Ashkenazic rabbis decreed that there should be no consumption of any grain that might have risen with the exception of previously prepared matzah. Since rice and legumes could be used as fermenting agents, this decree was meant to ensure that rice and legumes were not to be used as fermenting agents. However, potatoes were permitted because they were the primarly food staple in Ashkenazic communities in Central and Eastern Europe. For the same reason, Sephardic rabbis permitted the use of rice in Sephardic communities. Since Sephardim follow the rulings of Rabbi Joseph Karo and allow the use of kitniyot/kitniyos and Ashkenazim forbid their use, this results in different foods being served at the Passover seder meals in the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities. However, since the original ban on kitniyot/kitniyos ruling of the Ashkenazic rabbis ("The Smak", and "The Ramah"), there have been rabbinical differences of opinion between Jewish denominations and even within each denomination concerning what is and what is not kitniyot/kitniyos.
Another difference between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Passover customs in terms of Jewish law or Halachah, is that unlike Ashkenazic Jews, Sephardic Jews do not recite blessings over the second and fourth cups of wine, claiming that the sanctification blessing over the first cup of wine, Kiddush, and the Grace After Meals blessing over the third cup of wine, also apply to the second and fourth cups of wine.
Another difference between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Passover celebrations is with the Passover seder plate. There are six symbolic foods that are placed on the Passover seder plate, with the seventh symbolic food being either salt water, vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice that is set apart from the plate in a small cup or bowl. Some Ashkenazim use only five symbolic foods, excluding the second marror known as the chazeret. Since Sephardim put all the symbolic foods of Passover plus the three matzot (matzot is the plural form of matzah) on the Passover seder plate, their Passover seder plate is usually bigger than the Passover seder plate used by the Ashkenazim, who use a separate plate for the three matzot. Sephardim also do not have anything in between their three matzot while the Askenazim have dividers between their three matzot so that the three matzot are each in their own compartments. Most Sephardim follow the rabbinical opinion of Rabbi Isaac Ben Solomon Luria (acronym: the "Arizal") concerning the arrangement of the symbolic foods of Passover on the Passover seder plate while most Ashkenazim follow the rabbinical opinion of Rabbi Moses Isserlis (acronym: the "Ramah"), and arrange the symbolic foods of Passover in a slightly different arrangement. An interesting footnote is that the Spanish and Portuguese Jews of The Netherlands use three Passover seder plates. They place three symbolic foods on each plate. In this case, the nine symbolic foods that are divided into groups of three for each seder plate comprise the following: maror, chazeret, karpas, roasted hard-boiled egg, zeroah, charoset, and the three matzahs. See below for a Sephardic and Ashkenazic difference concerning the Kabbalistic meanings attached to each symbolic food on the Passover seder plate. Also, see our Passover Seder page to find out how both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic Passover seder plates are arranged.
Another Sephardic and Ashkenazic Passover difference is that the Sephardim add Kabbalistic meanings to each of the symbolic foods of Passover that are on the Passover seder plate, while the Ashkenazim do not. Kabbalah means "receiving", "reception", "receptivity" or "received tradition" in Hebrew, and is a Jewish mystical doctrine that refers to receiving and learning the ongoing traditions of teachings and practices in Judaism which seek to uncover the deeper levels of divine and human reality, found in the Book of Zohar, in other ancient religious Jewish texts, and in exchanges between religious teachers of Judaism and their students. The Book of Zohar (Zohar means "brilliant light" or "splendor" in Hebrew) contains mystical interpretations of the Torah (first five books of the Hebrew bible, written by Moses). Sephardim arrange each symbolic food on the Passover seder plate in a way that is similar to the kabbalistic tree of life, and each symbolic food - and the Passover seder plate itself - corresponds to a sefirah. In this context, sefirah (plural form: "sefirot") means "holy emanation" in Hebrew, meaning an attribute of G-d. According to Kabbalistic tradition, there are 10 sefirot, or attributes of G-d, and these sefirot created and sustain the world. The 10 sefirot are arranged in a tree-like fashion according to Kabbalistic tradition, hence the term kabbalistic tree of life.
The following describes the Sephardic arrangement of Passover food symbols on the Passover seder plate and their corresponding sefirah meaning on the kabbalistic tree of life for each of the 9 food symbols (3 matzot and the 6 other symbolic foods) and the Passover seder plate, which total 10 symbols for the 10 sefirot. The Hebrew word for the attribute of G-d (or sefirah) is followed by its English translation.
Kabbalistic Arrangement of Symbolic Passover Foods on the Passover Seder Plate.
The three matzot correspond to the three sefirot on the upper branches of the kabbalistic tree.
For a more comprehensive discussion and to see a diagram of the 10 sefirot that comprise the kabbalistic tree of life, visit this site: The Ten Sefirot of the Kabbalah. A smaller browser window will open.
Sephardim and Ashkenazim also differ on Passover when it comes to meat. The sacrifice of the lamb on Passover was permitted until the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. by the Romans. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, Ashkenazim have been forbidden to eat lamb meat, but some Sephardim permit lamb to be served as the feature dish at their Passover seder meals.
While the text in Passover haggadahs are basically identical for Sephardim and Ashkenazim, the flexibility and variety of Passover songs towards the end of the Passover seder is greater among the Sephardim when compared with the Ashkenazim. For both Sephardim and Ashkenazim, the text and songs in the Passover Haggadah may be read and sung in the local language, or a mixture of the local vernacular and Hebrew, or a combination of the local language, Hebrew, and other languages.
Over the past three centuries, new religious streams of Judaism for Ashkenazim were born out of Ashkenazic Jewish Orthodoxy due to the desire of some Ashkenazim to adapt to changing times as well as having different opinions concerning the practices of traditional Jewish Orthodoxy. These new religious streams were called Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, and Humanistic Judaism. In contrast, Sephardic Jews have continued to practice Orthodox Judaism without dividing up into different religious streams. In the context of Passover, this has allowed Ashkenazic Jews to practice Passover rituals and customs in a more flexible manner due to the varying opinions of its many streams.
The issue of women reclining at the Passover seder table is another practice which differs between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Ashkenazic women were customarily exempted from the ritual of reclining, however many Sephardic woman choose to recline.
In Passover seder step 5, Maggid, the Four Questions are recited in a slightly different order in a Sephardic and Ashkenazic Passover seder. Sephardim ask them in the following order (in summarized form): 1. Why dip twice?; 2. Why eat matzah?; 3. Why eat maror?; and 4. Why recline?; whereas Ashkenazim ask them in the following order (in summarized form): 1. Why eat matzah?; 2. Why eat maror?; 3. Why dip twice?; and 4. Why recline? Sephardim from Maghreban nations (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya) will first recite the 4 Questions in Hebrew, and then, depending on the family tradition, recite the 4 Questions in either Judeo-Berber, French, Judeo-Arabic, or Ladino. Sephardim who reside in the region known as the "Levant" ("Levant" means "the East", and it generally refers to the eastern parts of the Mediterranean, notably the coasts of Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor. The word is Italian, and signifies rising, alluding to the sun rising in the east.) will first recite the 4 Questions in Hebrew, then depending on the family tradition in either Ladino or Arabic. Furthermore, the 4th Question is asked in a slightly different manner for Sephardim in Turkey and Greece of Judeo-Spanish descent, and for Spanish-Portuguese Sephardim. Whereas other Sephardim will say (in detailed form): "For on all other nights, we eat sitting up or leaning, on this night we all eat leaning?", Sephardim in Turkey and Greece and of Spanish-Portuguese descent will say (in detailed form): "For all other nights we eat and we drink sitting up or leaning, on this night we all lean."
Some Sephardim also do not reserve the asking of The Four Questions for the youngest child at the Passover seder table. Instead, all participants at a Sephardic Passover seder chant The Four Questions in unison. Ashkenazim have the custom of reserving the recitation of The Four Questions for the youngest child at the Passover seder table.
Following either the Passover seder step of Yachatz (breaking of the middle matzah) or of reciting Ha-Lachmah Anya ("We were slaves in Egypt...") in the Passover seder step of Maggid or in the middle of reciting Ha-Lachmah Anya, most Sephardim re-enact the Exodus from Egypt. After the reciting of the Four Questions, Sephardim of North-African descent will conduct a re-enactment of the Exodus from Egypt. The Passover seder leader will leave the room and return with a walking stick and the afikomen in a cloth on his shoulder. The children at the Passover seder table would then ask the leader: "Where are you coming from?" whereupon the Passover seder leader would then proceed to tell the story of his Exodus from Egypt. Sephardim of Eastern Judeo-Spanish descent (Turkey and Greece) will conduct the re-enactment further on in Passover seder step 5: Maggid. The seder leader will leave the room, return with a walking stick and the afikomen in either a sack or cloth on his shoulder, plus a tightened belt. The children then ask the seder leader: "Where are you coming from?", and the seder leader says: "From Egypt." The seder leader then recites his story of the Exodus from Egypt. Then the children ask the seder leader: "Where are you going?" To which the seder leader says: "To Jerusalem!" Yemenite Jews will conduct the re-enactment of the Exodus from Egypt by having the seder leader throw a bag with the afikomen matzah in it over his shoulder like a knapsack. He then circles the table while leaning on a cane. As the seder leader walks around the room, he tells everyone at the Passover seder table about his experiences and the miracles he witnessed as he came forth from Egypt. Essentially, the ceremony surrounding the re-enactment of the Exodus from Egypt varies according to: (1) when it is done during the Passover seder (before the seder begins or after the Yachatz ritual or in the middle of or at the end of the reciting of "Ha Lachma Anya"); (2) who performs the ceremony [(A) sometimes only the seder leader performs this ritual, or; (B) sometimes a child will be selected to go outside either the house or the room where the Passover seder takes place and knock on the door to either the house or the room where the Passover seder is being held which will begin the exchange of questions and answers. After the child has knocked on the door to the house or room, all at the Passover seder table will ask: "Who's there?" The child will then reply: "An Israelite." All at the seder table will then ask: "Where are you coming from?" The child replies: "From Egypt" All at the seder table then ask: "Where are you going?" The child then says: "To the Land of Israel (or to Jerusalem)!" The child then enters the house or room and the Passover seder begins. Sometimes there is an extra question asked by all those at the seder table. All at the seder table may ask: "What are your supplies?" To which the child will respond: "Matzah (the afikomen matzah) and Marror (bitter herbs)"]; and (3) how the afikoman is wrapped and held (in a napkin or a bag, held on the right shoulder or thrown over the shoulder) which holds the Hebrews' remaining possessions as they fled Egypt (the afikomen matzah and marror). However, not all Sephardim conduct this re-enactment, though. Spanish-Portuguese Sephardim do not re-enact the Exodus from Egypt. Similarly, following the recitation of the Four Questions, Ashkenazim continue on with Passover seder step 5 (Maggid) and do not conduct a re-enactment of the Exodus from Egypt.
Which Passover dietary law issues do Sephardim and Ashkenazim agree on? Both agree that having any contact with and possession in one's household of chametz bread (leavened bread) is forbidden on Passover as well as any foods made with chametz ingredients (barley, spelt, rye, oats, and wheat) outside of matzah. Sephardim and Ashkenazim also agree that any non-chametz items (edible or non-edible) that come in contact with chametz items are then classified as secondary chametz and as such, are prohibited during Passover. As mentioned, most Ashkenazic rabbis forbid an additional set of grains and legumes called kitniyot/kitniyos, whereas most Sephardic rabbis do not. In practice most - but not necessarily all - Sephardim eat foods or derivatives of foods containing kitniyot/kitniyos on Passover. Some Sephardic communities and individuals agree with the Ashkenazic ban on kitniyot/kitniyos and will refrain from eating kitniyot/kitniyos and rice during Passover. Other Sephardim will eat rice and kitniyot/kitniyos during Passover but must check them three times prior to the Passover festival to make absolutely certain there are no kernels of chametz in the rice or kitniyot/kitniyos, in accordance with the Passover dietary laws for chametz. Still other Sephardim will not even perform the checking ritual of rice for chametz. Sephardim and Ashkenazim also agree that having possession of kitniyot/kitniyos (but not consumption of kitniyot/kitniyos for most Ashkenazim and some Sephardim) is permitted during the Passover festival.
Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews also differ when it comes to step 1 in the Passover seder: Kadeish (or "Kaddesh"). Besides Ashkenazim saying the blessings over wine 4 times while the Sephardim only say the blessings over wine twice, there is a Moroccan custom during Kadeish where the leader of the Passover seder will raise the Passover seder plate over the heads of the people present at the Passover seder table while reciting: "Bibhilu Yatzanu MiMitzraim Bene Horin," which is transliterated Hebrew, meaning in English: "In haste we left Egypt, a free people."
Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews differ when it comes to Passover seder step 4: Yachatz (or "Yahatz"). Whereas Ashkenazim break the middle matzah into two pieces, some Sephardic communities such as the Syrian community will add a Kabbalistic aspect to this ritual by matzah by breaking the matzah into the shape of two Hebrew letters, a daleth, which corresponds to the Hebrew numeric value of 4, and Vav, which corresponds to the Hebrew numeric value of 6, which adds up to 10, with 10 representing the 10 Sefirot of the Kabbalah ("sefirot" means "holy emanation" in Hebrew, meaning an attribute of G-d.). Sephardim from the Maghreban nations (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya) will break the matzah in such a way as to form the Hebrew letter Heh (corresponding to the Hebrew numeric value of 5). They then designate the larger piece as the Afikomen and usually place it in either a napkin or a large cloth. Another difference between Sephardim and Ashkenazim pertains to the Afikomen. Ashkenazim have the custom of hiding and "stealing" the Afikomen, whereas Sephardim do not have this tradition. Ashkenazim will hide the Afikomen and then later on in the Passover seder, the children present at the seder table will look for the Afikomen. Once a child finds or "steals" the Afikomen, he or she will then hold it for "ransom" while the person who hid the Afikomen will "pay" the ransom to the child, usually a chocolate coin or other similar token, to "recover" the Afikomen. This custom may have originated from a desire to keep children interested in the lengthy Passover seder proceedings.
Greek and Turkish Sephardim of Judeo-Spanish descent differ from Ashkenazim when it comes to opening the door for Elijah the Prophet. Greek and Turkish Sephardim of Judeo-Spanish descent will open the door for Elijah following the retelling of the Passover story and after that, at a specific point when reciting "Ha-Lahmah Aniah" (alternate spellings: "Ha Lahma Anya", "Ha Lachmah Anya", "Ha Lachma Anya", "Ha Lahmah Anya"): "This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. All who hunger, come and eat. All who need, come and celebrate Pessah." The door is then opened, followed by the conclusion of Ha-Lahmah Aniah: "This year, we are here, next year in the Land of Israel. This year we are slaves, next year we shall be free." The Ha-Lahmah Aniah is done in Passover seder step 5: Maggid. Most other Sephardim do not open the door for Elijah. Most Ashkenazim will open the door for Elijah at the beginning of Passover seder step 14: Hallel, although some will open the door for Elijah at the start of Passover seder step 13: Bareich.
Following the Passover seder, there is a custom among some Sephardim to take the haroseth (or charoset) and put it in 5 places [symbolizing the khamsah hand (G-d's protective hand) of 5 fingers] at the entrance to the household, such as on the doorposts, near the mezuzah, and so on. This is also done for good luck. Ashkenazim do not perform this ritual.
Many Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews also conclude the Passover festival by gathering near midnight either in a synagogue or in a town square to dance and sing the "Song of the Sea" from the Book of Exodus, Chapter 15. There is also a celebration and re-enactment of the "parting", or opening up, of the "Sea of Reeds" or the "Reed Sea" [which is possibly referring to the "Red Sea", an arm of the "Red Sea", a mistranslation of the "Red Sea", or is another body of water in the area of the Sinai Peninsula (Gulf of Suez, or the large delta at the mouth of the Nile River in Northern Egypt)]. The "Sea of Reeds" was a deep body of water and when the Hebrews reached the shores of the "Sea of Reeds" as they were fleeing the pursuing Egyptian army, G-d commanded Moses to strike his staff upon the waters of the "Sea of Reeds" whereupon the waters "parted", or opened up, revealing tunnels for the Hebrews to walk through. These tunnels went partly through the "Sea of Reeds" and eventually led in a 180-degree turn back to the Sinai Desert. This event occurred in the evening on the seventh day of the first Passover hence the reason for commemorating this event by dancing and singing the "Song of the Sea" (Exodus 15) near midnight on the final evening of the Passover festival.
Footnote regarding the dates on this Sephardic and Ashkenazic Passover / Pesach Differences web page: all dates discussed on this website are based on the modern Gregorian calendar, however, these dates are but one secular scholarly deduction; there are many other secular scholarly deductions as well as traditional Jewish chronological dates in addition to modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar dates regarding the timeline of events in Jewish history. To see a table of some important events in Jewish history discussed on this website and their various dates deduced from traditional Jewish sources, the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar, and secular historical timelines, check out our Jewish History Timeline web page.