Passover is celebrated in Jewish homes with fervor. Passover finds its mention in Biblical references, especially in the Hebrew Bible, where the story of the Exodus has been narrated in details.
The Book of Exodus tells of the story whereby the Israelites were freed from slavery of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs some 3300 years ago by the grace of God under the leadership of Moses. Passover commences from the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan according to the Jewish calendar system, and may last for eight days or seven in case of some reform Jewish groups.
The Exodus narrative tells that God helped the Children of Israel to get freed from their slavery. For the purpose God inflicted ten plagues upon the ancient Egyptians before the Pharaoh decided to release the Israelite slaves. The tenth of the plagues was the worst one and it caused the death of the “Egyptian first-born”.
It is also mentioned in the narrative that when the Israelites got freed from the clutches of the Pharaoh they were so eager to leave that in the hurried process they could not even wait for the dough of bread to rise (leaven). This is the reason that the Torah or the Old Testament mentions Passover to be the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In commemoration of this anecdote, the Seder (feast of Passover) is never complete without Matzo, the flat bread.
Passover in the next five years:
- In 2014, Passover is from Tuesday April 15 to Tuesday April 22.
- In 2015, Passover is from Saturday April 04 to Saturday April 11.
- In 2016, Passover is from Saturday April 23 to Saturday April 30.
- In 2017, Passover is from Tuesday April 11 to Tuesday April 18.
- In 2018, Passover is from Saturday March 31 to Saturday April 07.
After being subjected to inhuman torture and backbreaking labor by the Egyptian Pharaohs the Israelites (then slaves of the Pharaohs) were saved by Moses who was sent by God to lead the Children of Israel out of the clutches of horror and subjugation. At the stroke of midnight on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan in the year 2448 from Creation (approximately 1313 BCE), God struck with the final (tenth) plague by passing over homes in Israel where Egyptian firstborns were killed while the ones from Israeli homes were spared. Even today some homes have the tradition of blessing firstborns during Passover. This final blow broke the Pharaoh’s resistance and he chased the slaves out of the land. Those men, women and children then started to trek Mt. Sinai, and came to be known as God’s chosen people.
Public Life in United States:
In the United States, this is not considered to be a federal holiday, as such businesses and organizations operate according to their regular schedule. The same is applicable in case of public transportation that runs as per schedule on this day. However, certain Jewish institutions or businesses may opt to remain closed or to have reduced business hours for this occasion.
Passover is observed generally for eight days. However some Reform Jewish groups observe the same for seven days. During this period, people generally try to be with one’s family and friends. People also take special care of those who cannot be near their near and dear ones for some reason. Special effort is also made to make elderly people feel special and wanted. People may at times invite them over to their homes or gift a gift basket made especially for the occasion and containing Seder plates, ceremonial food items and wine. Care is also taken so that the poor and the needy do not remain left out of the ceremonial meal known as Seder – food and alms are distributed for the purpose to those who may need them.
In the Jewish American homes, the days of Passover sees adherence to most of the Sabbath observances. Some people take holiday this time of the year to enjoy the festivities to the best. In the homes people recite special prayers and read the Torah. People also listen to the narration of exodus from Egypt. Some people may also visit a synagogue to hear Torah or pray recitals. Ceremonial meals known as Seder are partaken that consists of symbolic food like bitter herbs, matzo (a kind of flat bread), meat of paschal lamb etc.