Report by Paula Antolini
April 10, 2017 5:00AM EDT
Passover Begins at Sundown Tonight
The festival holds great significance for the entire Jewish community residing across the world.
Passover is a Jewish festival celebrated in commemoration of the release of the Hebrews from the brutal slavery of the ancient Egyptians. The festival holds great significance for the entire Jewish community residing across the world. Passover, which is also known as Pesach, falls on the 15th day of the Nisan month in the Hebrew calendar and lasts till the 21st or 22nd day. This date corresponds in the month of March or April as per the Gregorian calendar.
The Story of Passover
Pesach or Passover festival holds a very special place in every Jew’s heart as it denotes their freedom from oppression and slavery under the Egyptian ruler “Pharaoh” over 3000 years ago. This seven day festival begins on 15th day of Nisan month in Jewish calendar. The Passover festival is being celebrated with much fun-fare, religious fervor and gaiety. Pesach festival is widely known for its ritual celebrative feasting. The festival pays careful attention to the kind of delicacies served as the biblical records object to serving leaven bread during the fest. The Seder meal is a ritual feast taken during Pesach fest and forms a very significant part of Pesach festival. The Seder meal is taken on first and second Pesach night. Family members and friends gather for festive supper meal to mark the beginning of the weeklong Pesach festival. Narrating the story of exodus to children over the Seder meal by parents and elder forms an important part of Pesach celebration.
The exodus story is mentioned in the holy book “Haggadah” that Jews recite over the Seder meal during Pesach festival. Over 3000 years ago, an Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II ruled and enslaved Israelis. Moses, a Hebrew, who had been brought in the royal court, abandoned the court when he saw ill-treatment of Hebrew slave by the Egyptians and went on to live as a simple shepherd. One day when Moses was tending his flock, he saw bush burning fiercely, but left unharmed. Moses understood that it was a call from God to lead his people. Moses with his brother, Aaron, conveyed the God wish to the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II and asked him to free Hebrews from slavery and oppression. The Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II ignored Moses’ plea. Moses warned Pharaoh of the God’s wrath but Pharaoh turned a deaf ear to him. God then unleashed a series of 10 terrible plagues on the Egyptians, one by one and after each punishment, Moses again repeated his plea to the Pharaoh. The ten plagues are:
1. The water of River Nile turned into blood.
3. Lice (vermin).
4. Wild Beasts (flies).
5. Blight (Cattle Disease).
10. Slaying of the First Born
The first nine plagues only served to daunt the Pharaoh’s wild spirit but were unable to make him submit to the will of God. Finally, God ordered the Hebrew slaves to make a sacrifice of the lamb in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem and mark their doors with the blood of the lamb, as an indication to the God to ‘pass over’ their houses while slaying the first born males of the Egyptians. Hebrews followed the word of God and thus, their first born males were saved from the tenth plague. ‘Pesach’ means ‘passing over’ or ‘protection’ in Hebrew. This final calamity was a final blow to the Pharaoh and he ordered Israelis to be set free immediately and allow their passage to freedom.
In their hurry to finally be able to live free lives, Israelites did not even wait to let their dough rise and bake bread but took raw dough instead to bake in the hot desert sun as hard crackers called Matzohs on their journey. Moses led them through the desert. The angry Pharaoh sent his army to chase these ex-slaves and kill them all. But with the grace of God, Jews managed to reach the Red Sea, where they were trapped by the vast expanse of water. Moses called upon the God for assistance and suddenly Red Sea parted to give way to the Israelites and thus, they safely passed over to the other side. They were protected forever as the waves closed over the shocked army of the Pharaoh and drowned the whole army.
Today, Jews celebrate Pesach or Passover festival all across the world by feasting on unleavened bread and narrating the story of exodus to children over the Seder meal. The celebration is often marked with family get together, feasting on Seder meal and merriment.