חג פסח שמח
The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.
After many decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, God sent Moses to Pharaoh with the message to let his people go. But despite numerous warnings, Pharaoh refused to follow this command. God brought upon Egypt ten devastating plagues.
At the stroke of midnight of 15 Nissan in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), God sent the last of the ten plagues to the Egyptians, killing all their firstborn. While doing so, God spared the Children of Israel, “passing over” their homes—hence the name of the holiday. Pharaoh’s resistance was broken, and he chased his former slaves out of the land. The Israelites left in such a hurry, that the bread they baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise. They began the trek to Mount Sinai and their birth as God’s chosen people.
In honoring this past during the whole week of Pessach, and at the Seder festive meal, only unleavened bread, called Matzah, is eaten.
The focal points of the Seder are:
- Eating matzah.
- Eating bitter herbs—to commemorate the bitter slavery endured by the Israelites.
- Drinking four cups of wine or grape juice—a royal drink to celebrate the newfound freedom.
- The recitation of the Haggadah, a liturgy that describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt.