The Jewish holiday of Passover occurs every spring, as surely as the daffodils bloom, and it is perhaps the most central in terms of Jewish life and history.
The holiday begins at sunset (as do all Jewish holidays) on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Because the Hebrew calendar is based on a lunar system, with 28 days in a month, corrected 7 times in a 19-year cycle by adding a leap month, the holidays can only move on the Gregorian calendar from late March to late April, this year beginning on Friday, April 15th.
Passover celebrates the biblical account of the Israelites’ redemption and escape from 400 years of Egyptian slavery. The story is told in the Book of Exodus, but many only know of the parting of the Red Sea. The story unfolds with the Israelites as slaves and the long attempt to be set free. Even before this freedom happens, in Exodus 12:14 the Almighty is describing a holiday and how to celebrate it: “This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Eternal throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time. 12:15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leavening from your house ….”.
The unleavened bread is Matzah and is central to the celebration of the holiday.
Passover is celebrated with a special meal called the Seder, where family and friends gather to read from the Haggadah which relates the story of Passover, the Israelites leaving Egypt and going from slavery to freedom. On the Seder table is a special plate which contains food, symbolic for the holiday. There you will find a roasted lamb shank bone symbolizing a sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem, a roasted egg, a sacrifice brought by the pilgrims, parsley symbolizing spring, Charoset (made from apples, nuts and wine) symbolizing the clay that was used by the slaves to make bricks for Pharaoh, horseradish symbolizing the bitterness of slavery and romaine lettuce, another bitter reminder. In addition to telling the story, there is singing, a bountiful meal and the warmth and closeness only family and friends can bring.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.