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Passover - what is it?

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Uploaded on Apr 11, 2008

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What is Passover?

A. Passover (in Hebrew: Pesach - pronounced PAY-sach) is the Biblical holiday that commemorates the Hebrews' rapid departure from ancient Egypt. The Jews had just endured over 200 years of exile, including several decades of torturous slave labor, and now G-d was going to fulfill His promise to Abraham—the promise to redeem the Jews and do justice to their slave-masters. Right before the Exodus, G-d commands the Jews to sacrifice one lamb per family and mark the Jewish doorposts with its blood. This would be a sign for G-d to "pass over" the Jewish homes as He slew the Egyptian firstborn—the last of ten supernatural attacks on the Egyptians. This is the origin of the name "Passover."1

B. Passover is a Spring holiday; it starts on the 15th of Nissan (usually sometime in April) and lasts for eight days (in Israel, seven days). The first two and last two days (in Israel, only the first and last day) are major holidays, i.e. on these days it is forbidden to work, drive, turn on or off a light, etc. The middle days are Chol Hamoed. See also When is Passover.

C. We observe Passover much the same way the Jews did on the original Passover during the exodus from Egypt. Ever since its inception the Passover mandate was to purge the home of any grain-based leavened item before Passover, to eat Matzah and bitter herbs on Passover, and (when we have a Holy Temple in Jerusalem) to bring a lamb as a Passover offering. The lamb is not done today due to the Temple's absence - may it be rebuilt speedily in our days, but everything else is: the mad, meticulous scrubbing and cleaning of every nook and cranny, the Seders with the Matzah and bitter herbs, as well as four cups of wine, on the first two nights (in Israel only on the first night), and the Shabbat-like services on the first and last days. See also How is Passover celebrated?

D. The lesson of Pesach is that you have unlimited potential. In Hebrew, Egypt is Mitzrayim—etymologically related to meitzarim, or borders. The moral of the Exodus story is that we all can escape our personal Egypts. And the seek-and-destroy-any-leavened-particle part of Passover teaches us to eradicate our puffed-up, inflated, doughy egos and be simple, flat, unleavened Matzot. The holiday of Pesach contains innumerable lessons, laws and customs. Browse our knowledge base for more information about this beautiful holiday; and if you are finished and still want more, go to http://www.Passover.net

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