What is Passover
Passover is probably the best known Jewish Holiday and is also the most celebrated by Jews world-wide. It is thought that over 80% of American Jews attend some form of Passover Seder (festive meal). During the Seder, Jews relive the story of the Exodus, as if they themselves were going from slavery to freedom.
Passover celebrates the freedom and The Exodus of the Jewish People from slavery, in Ancient Egypy, in the time of Pharoah Ramses II.
Passover is a spring Festival and one of the three annual foot festivals, where pilgrimages were made to the Ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Observant Jews follow a number of rigorous dietary restrictions during its 7 or 8 day duration. The most notable of which, being, the abstinence of bread and leavened (risen) products from the diet. Observant Jews completely clean their houses and remove any trace of Chamatz (leavened products) from the house before the festival begins. They will completely change their cutlery, crockery and kitchen utensils to their “kosher for Pesach” sets. These are reserved exclusively for Passover and are guaranteed to not have come in contact with any leaven or forbidden products.
Passover falls on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, and lasts 7 days in Israel and 8 in the rest of the world (the Diaspora).
At Passover it is remembered, that after 210 years of slavery in Egypt, Moses told Pharaoh that he must "Let My People Go." Pharaoh refused and God sent the “ten Plagues” on the Egyptian people. Finally Pharaoh agreed to release the slaves and the Exodus from Egypt commenced.
Passover is more than just a historical event. It is a celebration of freedom as Jews. Every Jew is commanded to remember that WE were slaves in Egypt and God Rescued ME from slavery.
"And thou shalt tell thy son" (Exodus. 13:8)
On Passover, Jews retell the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. But, some believe that the Israelites only truly became free when, 50 days after the Exodus, they accepted the Torah (the five books of Moses) from God at Mount Sinai. Thus, the Jewish nation was born.
Historical setting of Passover
The Israelites arrived in Egypt through Jacob. Jacob brought his family to Egypt to be with his son Joseph, who had become Viceroy of all Egypt. Over time, the children of Israel multiplied in the land of Egypt.
Pharaoh feared the Israelites were becoming too influential and powerful. He started to oppress and enslave them, in order to weaken them. The Israelites were forced to build cities, erect monuments, construct roads, work in the quarries and hew stones.
Despite the oppression, the Israelites continued to multiply. So Pharaoh decreed that all male newborns of Jewish mothers be killed.
Jacob's great-grandson, Amram, who married Yocheved, had a daughter Miriam and a son named Aaron. Yocheved then gave birth to a third child. To save him from being killed by Pharaoh's soldiers, she put him in a basket and hid it in the the reeds at the edge of the Nile River.
When Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe in the Nile she discovered the baby. She called the baby Moses (drawn from the water) and decided to raise him herself in the palace. She hired the baby's mother, Yocheved, to be his nurse. As Moses grew, Yocheved taught him about his Jewish heritage.