Pesach – or Passover – is a major holiday in Jewish tradition, celebrated this year from sunset on March 29 through nightfall on April 5. Pesach commemorates the story of Moses from Exodus 12, when God set ten plagues upon the Egyptians to convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites. The tenth plague was the killing of the firstborn sons. However, the Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb, and upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term “Passover.”
As Exodus 12:13 says, “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
Pesach is also called the Holiday of Freedom, and this aspect of the holiday is emphasized in the rituals and prayers: The exodus from slavery to freedom symbolizes physical and spiritual redemption and man’s aspiration to be free.
Another important element of this holiday is family togetherness. On the eve of the holiday, called Seder night – due to the ceremonial Seder meal that is celebrated that evening – whole extended families gather around one table. It is also an important Jewish precept to invite others who have no family with whom to celebrate the holiday.
Another name for Pesach is the Holiday of Unleavened Bread, named so because of the observance of eating no foods containing fermented grain products, just as the children of Israel had to eat because of fleeing from Egypt in haste (see Exodus 12:14-20).
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