Passover - March or April
PASSOVER (March or April)
Passover, in Hebrew called “Pesach” (pronounced “Pay-Sahkh”), lasts for eight days. Passover is one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates the Jewish People’s liberation from slavery in Egypt about 4000 years ago. At the time of our liberation from slavery, we fled into the desert wilderness of Sinai, and we were forged into a People. Eventually, according to the Torah, we arrived at Mount Sinai and accepted the Torah. So Passover is a celebration of freedom, and also a prelude to undertaking the responsibilities and obligations that accompany freedom.
There are many practices associated with Passover:
1) There are extra dietary laws that are observed to keep things kosher on Passover. According to the Torah, when the Jewish People fled into the wilderness, there was no time to stop and let bread rise. Therefore we do not eat or possess anything made with leavening (often called Chumetz) during the days of Passover. In general, we eat no grains or anything made from grain except Matzah, and no beans or peanuts. This extends to many, many processed foods commonly available today. (Even most sodas, for example, usually contain corn syrup.) In general, any processed foods used on Passover should be marked “Kosher for Passover.”
2) The first two and last two days of Passover are observed like the Sabbath, which means most work is avoided. Most of the lunch and dinner meals on those days begin with special prayers.
- Dinner on the first two nights are very special meals. These are the Seders (pronounced “Say-der”). Those dinner meals include a lot of rituals and readings, centering around a book called the Haggadah.. During that time, with these readings and rituals, we retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and consider many of the lessons of that story.
Passover is about more than leaving Egypt 4000 years ago. At the Seders we remind ourselves that “in every generation we should each feel as if we each are leaving Egypt.” The Rabbis point out that the word “Mitzrayim” (Egypt) resembles the word “mitzarim” (from the narrow places). So when we talk about leaving “Egypt,” we are also talking about leaving any “narrow places” that constrict us. The deeper, underlying message of Passover is that liberation is always possible. Ultimately, this is a message that is applicable to everyone.