HomeArticlesWhat You Need To Know about Celebrating Passover

What You Need To Know about Celebrating Passover

Passover, or Pesach, is an important Jewish holiday that highlights themes of liberation, empathy, and steadfastness. This year, Passover will start on Monday, April 22nd in the evening and run through April 30th.

As fans of Prince of Egypt might know, Passover is a celebration and retelling of the story of the Ancient Israelites’ escape and eventual liberation from slavery in Egypt. Egypt, in the context of Passover, should not be confused with the modern day country!

Understanding the history of Passover

The story of Passover follows Moses from his childhood as an adopted member of the Pharaoh’s family to his escape from Egypt after his intervention in an Israelite slave’s beating. He eventually returns to Egypt to liberate the Israelites after God appears to him as a burning bush.

When Pharaoh refuses to release the Israelites from bondage, God brings forth the ten plagues to pressure Pharaoh. After Pharaoh releases the Israelites only to change his mind, God splits the Red Sea so the Israelites can walk across before drowning the Egyptians in pursuit. The last of the Ten Plagues is the source of the name Pesach: God instructs the Israelites to smear lamb’s blood on their homes so he would know which homes to spare from the death of the first born. The Hebrew word for sparing is Pasach – which led to Pesach.

Passover Traditions

There are several traditions, rules, and customs to be aware of when preparing for a Passover Seder or just to commemorate the holiday.

Eating Matzah: Specific dietary restrictions for Passover Kashrut laws dictate that one not eat chametz (leaven) in honor of the Israelites’ inability to wait for their bread to rise before escaping Egypt, though other interpretations exist. This is why matzah, unleavened flatbread, is customarily eaten. Many Jews have special silverware or clean their utensils and ovens, for example, in order to isolate chametz.

Seder: The most important, notable part of Passover is, of course, the Passover Seder. A ritual feast that’s held one to two times at the very beginning of the Passover holiday, the Seder meal is preceded by several customs, depending on tradition and location.

Individuals participating in the Seder are traditionally guided by a Haggadah, a written text that is a manual for the holiday and a written version of the story wrapped up into one. Another essential part of the Seder is the Seder plate, containing various foods with symbolic meanings for the lessons of the Passover holiday.

Celebrating Passover with family

There are many ways to make Passover more relatable to you and your family! Passover is ultimately a holiday of empathy –so taking some time to apply the plight of the Israelites to an issue of concern for you and your loved ones can be a valuable way to combine cultural heritage with contemporary causes.

Fun recipes playing on key foods for Passover are a fun, engaging way to incorporate tradition, too! A personal favorite of mine is matzah brei (Yiddish for matzah porridge), a food originating with Yiddish-speaking Jews, which involves softening matzah with milk or water and frying it with eggs. It can be sweet or savory and leaves lots of room for creative culinary experimentation!

Ori Tsameret
Ori Tsamerethttp://tjmhc.org
Ori Tsameret is the Programming and Education Director of Tucson Jewish Museum & Holocaust Center. The Tucson Jewish Museum & Holocaust Center is located in Barrio Viejo, an historic neighborhood on the southern edge of downtown Tucson. The museum features the first synagogue built in the Arizona Territory and a Holocaust History Center. Through educational and community outreach, exhibitions, and public programs, the museum explores the histories and contemporary experiences of Jewish people in Southern Arizona. The Holocaust Center presents the Holocaust through the life experiences of more than 270 Holocaust survivors who both survived Nazi persecution and later lived in Southern Arizona. To find out more, or to visit the museum visit tjmhc.org



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