One of Judaism’s most important holiday, Passover or Pesah, begins next week, and many are wondering: What exactly is Passover? Look no further, here is everything you need to know about the holiday, its food, its story and its traditions. Above is viral Passover parody version of Frozen‘s “Let It Go.”
Here is what you need to know:
1. Passover Is Based on the Story of Moses
Passover celebrates the story of Moses and the exodus of Jews, from Egypt from the book of Exodus in the Torah, or the Old Testament of the Bible. In the story, the Pharaoh decrees that the first-born sons of all the Jewish people (serving as slaves in Egypt) are to be killed. In an effort to protect baby Moses, his parents send him down a river in a basket. Somewhere down the river he is retrieved and raised as a member of the Egyptian royal family. After finding out his birth identity, Moses became a champion of the Jewish people and brings 10 plagues on the land of Egypt until the pharaoh agrees to set the Jewish people free.
Moses leads the Jewish people out of Egypt when he receives the Ten Commandments from God. This is the story of Passover, but also forms the basic plot of the 1956 classic film The Ten Commandments. You can watch the trailer of that film above, or read more about the Passover story here.
2. Those Celebrating Passover Cannot Eat Leavened Bread
Most of the rules and traditions come from the story of Passover above. This also applies to the dietary restrictions followed by observant Jews during the length of Passover. According to the story, because the Jewish people left Egypt in a hurry, there was no time for their bread to rise in their ovens. Needing something to eat, the Jews let the dough bake on their backs in the hot sun, preventing the bread from rising but creating flat unleavened bread, which we know now as matzah. Because of this story, it is traditional to eat nothing with leavened bread in it during the 8 days of Passover.
3. A Haggadah & Seder Plate Are Necessary for Celebrating
Two things that you’ll see at any Passover seder are the Haggadah and the Seder plate. The Haggadah is the specific prayer book that leads a group through the rituals, prayers, stories, and songs essential for the observance of Passover.
A Seder plate contains the essential symbolic ingredients of Passover. The dish holds the shank bone, egg, bitter herbs, apple paste, and a vegetable. The bone represents the lamb sacrificed on the night before the exodus from Egypt, the egg represents the traditional offering left at the temple, the bitter herbs are the bitterness of slavery in Egypt, the paste represents the mortar used to build the structures of Egypt, the vegetable represents the labor of the enslaved. Salt water is also necessary to represent the tears of the Jews.
4. Passover Lasts 7 or 8 Days
Symbolic of the time it took the Jewish people to flee from Egypt, Passover and its dietary restrictions last 7 days for people in Israel, and 8 if you’re anywhere else in the world. The seder traditionally happens on the first evening of Passover.
5. Passover 2014 Begins Sundown on Monday, April 14
This year passover begins at Sundown on Monday, April 14, and runs though Tuesday, April 22, for those celebrating outside of Israel.