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Jan Harris
Assistant Editor
9:14 AM 11th April 2020

What Is Passover Or Pesach?

Passover or Pesach is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays.

photo by slgckgc
photo by slgckgc
The Hebrew name for Passover is Pesach which means ‘to pass over’ because God passed over the Jewish homes when killing the Egyptian firstborn on the evening of the first Passover.

It is one of the three Pilgrimage festivals when the entire population of the kingdom of Judah makes a trip to the temple in Jerusalem.

In 2020 recreating Passover during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown required Jews around the world taking to Zoom and FaceTime.

Matza (unleavened bread) - photo by Edsel Little
Matza (unleavened bread) - photo by Edsel Little
According to the Bible the first night of the Passover starts after nightfall and the second night is the anniversary of the Jews exodus from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

This year the eight day festival of Passover began in the evening of Wednesday 8 April and will end in the evening of Thursday 16 April 2020.

The eight day festival represents the week in which the Israelites were pursued by the Egyptians as they went into exile.

Some Jews refrain from eating leavened bread during that time and also take it as a holiday so can attend special services.

Jews gather around the Seder table to celebrate Passover. The Seder is a feast which includes reading, drinking wine, telling stories, eating special foods and singing, along with other Passover traditions.

The traditional meal called the Seder means 'order' because everything is done in a particular order.

The Seder meal includes four cups of wine, eating matza (unlevened bread) with maror (bitter herbs) and the story of the Exodus is retold.

There are at least five foods that go on the Seder plate:

Shank bone (zeroa) - a roasted bone to commemorate the Paschal sacrifice. This is not for eating but to remind everyone of the outstretched arm of God when he took the Jews out of Egypt.

The symbolic Seder plate - photo by slgckgc
The symbolic Seder plate - photo by slgckgc
Egg (beitzah) - this represents the Hagigah sacrifice which was eaten with the Paschal sacrifice on Seder night during Temple times.

Bitter herbs (maror) - Mar means 'bitter', and the maror reminds of the bitterness of slavery. Lettuce and grated horseradish are commonly used.

Vegetable (karpas) - any vegetable can be used and can be cooked or raw, commonly used are parsley, celery or potatoes which are dipped in salt water to represent the tears of the Israelite slaves.

Haroset (a sweet paste) - the word is thought to come from heres, meaning 'clay' and symbolises the clay the Israelite slaves used to make bricks. The sweetness offsets the taste of the bitter herbs and represents freedom as opposed to slavery. There are lots of recipes which include apples, walnuts, dates or other dried fruit.

A Seder meal in previous years - photo by Scott Rocher
A Seder meal in previous years - photo by Scott Rocher
Passover or Pesach 2021 will be celebrated 27 March to 4 April 2021.