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What is Passover?

Passover is a Jewish holiday celebrated in the Springtime in either March or April. In essence, Passover celebrates the physical freedom of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.

Why the name "Passover"?

Passover comes from the Hebrew root word "Posach" which means "to pass over". This alludes to when the Angel of Death "passed over" the homes of the Hebrews and instead went into the homes of the Egyptians and slew the first-born son in each Egyptian family as a punishment for not allowing the Hebrews to leave Egypt as a free people. This event occurred during the 10th and final Plague in Egypt.

Who are the main characters in the Passover story?

The Passover story has a few main characters. (1) Moses ("Moshe" in Hebrew) is the Jewish leader of the Hebrews who eventually leads his people out of Egypt. (2) The Pharaoh (Pharaoh means "king" in ancient Egyptian) is the leader of the Egyptians who steadfastly refuses to let the Hebrews go until a series of 10 plagues commanded and performed by G-d makes him change his mind after each plague but each time after the Hebrews leave Egypt, he changes his mind again and forces them back into slavery in Egypt. Throughout all this, G-d plays an important role in that many of the events that occur are a result of G-d's work.

Where does the Passover story take place?

The Passover story primarily takes place in the land of Goshen, an area of ancient Egypt which is today somewhere between the city of Cairo and the Suez Canal in Egypt.

When did the Passover story occur?

The Passover story occurred, according to calculations, in the year 1476 B.C.E. This was when Pharaoh (King) Thutmose III ruled Egypt. This date is the generally accepted date for when the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt occurred. However, there are many other dates claimed by different scholars that cover the 15th centuries, 14th centuries, and 13th centuries B.C.E., in particular the dates when Pharaoh (King) Ramses II ruled Egypt (alternate spellings: Rameses, Ramesses, Raamses). Pharaoh Ramses lived from 1314 B.C.E. to 1224 B.C.E. and ruled from 1290 B.C.E. to 1224 B.C.E.

Which foods are traditionally eaten on Passover?

Passover has several symbolic foods, most of which are eaten during the festive meals or meals known as the Passover Seder. These foods are: Matzah ("unleavened bread" in Hebrew), marror ("bitter herbs" in Hebrew), Karpas ("bitter vegetable" in Hebrew), Chazeret ("a second bitter vegetable" in Hebrew), Zeroah (literally meaning "arm" or "wing" in Hebrew, but usually referring to a shank bone of a chicken), Beitzah ("hard-boiled or roasted eggs" in Hebrew, Mei Melach ("salt-water" for the eggs), Charoset ("clay" in Hebrew, a symbolic food of which "clay" is represented by a basic mixture of nuts, fruit, wine, honey, and cinnamon), and "Yayin", meaning "wine" in Hebrew. More details about each food are explained on our Passover Seder web page.

How is Passover celebrated?

Very carefully. Seriously! Everything must be "Kosher For Passover" in order to have a Passover holiday in line with the dietary laws of Judaism, called "Kosher" laws. Preparations made for Passover are based on these dietary laws, the main law of which there should be no leavened foods as well as any item that contains leavening in one's possession and that one owns during the entire duration of the Passover holiday. This is basically to recreate the situation that the Hebrews experienced in the Passover story so that one can feel as if he or she was leaving Egypt and also to be connected to one's past and ancestors in an unbroken chain of faith and community since on the opening nights of Passover, Jews around the world celebrate and continue the Passover story by retelling the Passover story to their children so that they can continue the tradition and experiences of the Hebrews down through the ages.

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