2022-04-15

PASSOVER 2021 begins at sundown on Friday, April 15, and ends Saturday evening, April 23. The first seder is on the evening of  March 27. The second Passover is from Sunday April 25 to Monday April 26. The second Passover provides an opportunity for those who were unable to participate in the first Passover celebration. It is known as Pesach Sheni. The original celebration marked by a seder is understood to have been held in the 5th century BCE in the Jewish sacred calendar month of Abib (“green fruit”; “ears of corn”) which corresponds loosely to the vernal equinox.

Traditionally Passover is eight days long, although some Jewish reform groups celebrate it for seven days.

Passover commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, and their transition from slavery to freedom. The main ritual of Passover is the seder, which occurs on the first two night (in Israel just the first night) of the holiday — a festive meal that involves the re-telling of the Exodus through stories and song and the consumption of ritual foods, including matzoh and maror (bitter herbs). The seder’s rituals and other readings are outlined in the Haggadah — today, many different versions of this Passover guide are available in print and online, and you can also create your own.

The central Passover practice is a set of intense dietary changes, mainly the absence of hametz, or foods with leaven. (Ashkenazi Jews also avoid kitniyot, a category of food that includes legumes.) In recent years, many Jews have compensated for the lack of grain by cooking with quinoa, although not all recognize it as kosher for Passover.

The ecstatic cycle of psalms called Hallel is recited both at night and day (during the seder and morning prayers). Additionally, Passover commences a 49-day period called the Omer, which recalls the count between offerings brought to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. This count culminates in the holiday of Shavuot, the anniversary of the receiving of the Torah at Sinai.

According to the Torah, the Jewish settlement in ancient Egypt first occurs when Joseph, founder of one of the 12 tribes of Israel, moves his family there during a severe famine in their homeland of Canaan.

When Joseph and his brothers pass away, a particularly hostile pharaoh orders their enslavement and the systematic drowning of their firstborn sons in the Nile.

One of these doomed infants is rescued by the pharaoh’s daughter, given the name Moses (meaning “one who is pulled out”) and adopted into the Egyptian royal family.

When he reaches adulthood, Moses becomes aware of his true identity and the Egyptians’ brutal treatment of his fellow Hebrews.

He kills an Egyptian slave master and escapes to the Sinai Peninsula, where he lives as a humble shepherd for 40 years.

However, Moses receives a command from God to return to Egypt and free his kin from bondage, according to the Hebrew bible. Along with his brother Aaron, Moses approaches the reigning pharaoh (who is unnamed in the biblical version of the story) several times, explaining that the Hebrew God has requested a three-day leave for his people so that they may celebrate a feast in the wilderness.

When the pharaoh refuses, God unleashes 10 plagues on the Egyptians, including turning the Nile River red with blood and unleashing a plague of locusts.

Seder customs include telling the story, discussing the story, drinking four cups of wine, eating matza, partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder plate, and reclining in celebration of freedom. The Seder is the most commonly celebrated Jewish ritual, performed by Jews all over the world.