One of the major holidays of the Jewish calendar is Pesach. It is not only an important cultural and religious event which special rituals and customs that are being impeccably kept year after year are connected with. The Jewish holiday of Pesach is a symbol of nation’s formation, achieving of the long-awaited freedom by Jews. It is identified as the beginning of national history. During these days Jews celebrate their release, experiencing all the related events over and over again.
When the holiday of Passover begins?
According to the calendar, the beginning is set on the 14th of Nissan (after the sunset). But the ritual component precedes the celebration itself. It suggests a special preparation for the celebration and observation of different rituals.
The Passover is celebrated for 8 days. In Israel Pesach lasts for a week.
Ritual preparations for the celebration
The preparatory traditions include:
- cleaning of the house;
- getting rid of chametz;
- special treatment/buying of new dishes;
- selling of leaven.
Hashem prohibited to eat and even possess chametz during Pesach. The traditions related to removal of farinaceous foods made of overaged dough are observed to the full extent. Religious Jews conduct general cleaning in their homes, looking for crumbs of forbidden foods thoroughly. Bakers and confectioners are able to sell chametz to a non-Jew with help of a rabbi. After the holiday it can be bought back. Even the dishes that contacted a non-kosher food item should be cleansed, and what is even better, replaced with uncontaminated ones.
After the sunset on the 14th of Nissan bedikat is conducted. After reading the blessing, the head of family searches for leaven using a candle and a feather. What was found needs to be burned – biur chametz.
During the days of Pesach there is only one kind of bread product allowed to be eaten – matza. Unleavened flat bread is prepared with a strictly defined baking time. Matza is an essential part of many festive rituals.
The opening of celebration takes place long time before all the preparatory ceremonies, on the Great Shabbos that is celebrated on Shabbos before the Pesach feast. On this day G-d’s miracles were made for the nation. It is honored with reading about the traditions of the upcoming celebration as well as determining the fate of future crops.
The fast of the firstborn begins in the morning of the day before the celebration. According to the established tradition, its keeping finishes after the morning prayer. The meal carried out after that frees all of the participants from the Pesach fasting.
Charitable gifts for the ones in need on the threshold of the celebration are an important part of the preparation. Each of the sons of Israel should be provided with everything needed for the holy feast.
The name of the feast is translated as “order”. It should be conducted with accordance to all rules and prescriptions, accompanied by prayers, religious chants and ritual actions. On the table there must be:
- wine or grape juice;
- maror (horseradish, celery, lettuce, chicory);
- karpas (parsley, potato, radish, onion);
- charoset (nuts crushed together with fruits, spices and wine);
- salted water;
- zeroah (a bone with meat);
- hard-boiled egg.
In the evening of Pesach (the 14th of Nissan) religious Jews read Haggadah, the story about leaving Egypt. Four cups of wine (juice) that symbolize promises from the book of Exodus are being drunk. All participants of the feast eat matza and maror, as well as other meals.
The week of celebration
The next day bears the name Isru Chag; Pesach continues, however, there are not so many events. During the holiday week days are considered only half ferial. The working day is either not full or is not present at all. Work in not forbidden but is not welcome at the same time. One should have rest, pray, communicate with the family. It is very good for any Jew to visit Jerusalem during this week.
The count of 49 days of Omer is started from the 2nd evening. On the 50th day Shavuos is celebrated.
The seventh day of Pesach, the 21st of Nissan suggest resting. Work is forbidden. In the evening one more feast honouring the Exodus occurs.
The history of celebration
Every ritual carried out during the days of Passover, and during Seder in particular, is a reference to the past. Every Jew tries to experience the great release. The ceremonies and ritual actions make this process more realistic and understandable, especially for children.
The family of Yaakov who has come to Egypt numbering 70 people was welcomed warmly. But as the diaspora was growing, the Egyptians started to oppress their guests. Step-by step they were turned into slaves. The newborn Jewish boys were killed so that the nation would be eventually exterminated. Moshe, who miraculously stayed alive, had an amazing fate awaiting him – he should have become the redeemer of Jewish sons.
On the 10th day of Nissan G-d commanded every Jew to choose a lamb for the Passover sacrifice (The Great Shabbos). The Egyptians who were indignant with such an attitude to their idol were stroked with plagues from heaven – cruel diseases. Hashem sent ten plagues on Egypt in total. The last one was death of all Egyptian firstborn. The punishing G-d has passed over the Jewish homes as their doorposts were smeared with blood of the sacrificial animal (Fast of the firstborn). After the tenth plague Israelites have left the country of pharaohs, but the enemy’s army was already preparing to chase them. Jewish housewives didn’t manage to leaven the dough before leaving, so they took only unleavened matza with them.
On the seventh day the chasers were immersed into the waters of Red sea which moved apart for the Jewish nation. It is the ending of the Pesach celebration.
Chag Pesach sameach!
The Passover is celebrated not only taking into account the ritual traditions. The attitude to this holiday is important as well. Every Jew should remember about his or her freedom and about the things that depend on no one. That’s why nothing can sadden these holy days.
Cheerful happiness and all-embracing joy are also an essential part of the celebration. People should greet each other and rejoice together. Don’t forget to deliver Pesach greeting cards to your family, relatives, friends and acquaintances, as well as to greet them in person. Get together with all your family. Participation in the brightest celebrations is important, and we are willing to help with that.
And don’t forget that Pesach 2018 is already not far away. You can start planning the celebration right now. This year the dates of Pesach are set on the period from March, 30 to April, 7.