The month of April marks a season of celebration; it entails both the Jewish Holiday of Passover (Pesach), and this year the calendar causes the Christian Holiday of Easter to fall right in the middle of the 8 day Passover celebration. I want to explore these holidays for both my Jewish and Gentile friends. I have often found that most of my Jewish friends do not know much about Easter, and most of my Gentile friends, myself included, are curious about Passover but don’t know much about it or what it entails. In this blog I will be giving a simple over-view of the basics of Passover.
This is an 8 day holiday in which the Jewish people commemorate when God delivered the nation of Israel out of Egypt. This year Passover begins at sundown April 10th and ends at Sundown on the 18th. While the first two nights are celebrated with the traditional Pesach Seder this is a holiday week and most people spend the whole 8 days vacationing, relaxing, and celebrating. The Seder itself is a fascinating event/meal full of tradition and beauty about which I will discuss more of in an upcoming post.
This is one of the biggest holidays in the Jewish calendar, and much preparation goes into its celebration. One of the main and most important aspects of Passover is the fact that the houses and diets should be completely purged of any and all leaven (chametz). So, basically, this involves a major spring cleaning!
People begin cleaning their houses, kitchens, and cupboards well in advance of the actual holiday so that when Pesach begins, there are no traces of leaven to be found.
According to www.chabad.org one is allowed to eat leaven until the fourth hour of the day and then before the fifth hour all leftover leaven is supposed to be burned. Near where I live right outside Burough Park (an extremely orthodox area of Brooklyn) they have places you can bring any leftover bread you have left in your house to be burned before the start of the Holiday. They often do this on the street-corner, and it is very fascinating to watch.
After the burning they recite this declaration.
“All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession, whether I have seen it or not, whether I have observed it or not, whether I have removed it or not, shall be considered nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.”
Because there is to be no leaven consumed, one of the main staples of the Passover week is Matzah bread.
This is a tasteless, crunchy, cracker-like “bread substitute”. This matzah must be made in a very specific way in order for it to be kosher. My land-lord’s wife was just recently explaining to me the incredibly detailed process involved in making it, and we have a “Matzah Factory” right down the street from our apartment! If you want to learn more about it, there is a short and fascinating you-tube video you can watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BO9yO-QhgM
This is a very special time for Jewish families and individuals all over the world. No matter how religious you are or where you might happen to be at the time, most Jewish people will do everything they can to make sure that the first night of Passover they are at a Seder. Even in such far-away places as Nepal and India, organizations such as Chabad do their best to provide a place for travelers or people without families to share in a Seder. For a more detailed and specific look at all the intricacies of Passover www.chabad.org is a very fascinating website.
Stay tuned for a detailed look at the Passover Seder!