Passover or Pesach is a holiday or festival celebrated by Jewish people. They celebrate it to remember when God used Moses to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as told in the book of Exodus in the Christian Bible.

God told Moses to set aside this special week originally called “the feast of unleavened bread”. (Leaven is yeast which makes bread be high and fluffy instead of flat.) During this time, the people eat special foods, do special rituals and sing songs. Passover is around the time of Easter (April/May). Some Christians also celebrate it.

The day Passover begins the Seder meal is eaten that evening. Passover is a spring festival.

In Israel, Passover is the seven-day holiday of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, with the first and last days celebrated as legal holidays and as holy days involving holiday meals, special prayer services, and not going to work; the intervening days are known as Chol HaMoed (“Weekdays [of] the Festival”).

Jews who do not live in Israel celebrate the festival for eight days.

A symbolic food placed on the Passover Seder Plate (but not eaten), which is usually a roasted shankbone (or a chicken wing or neck).


No leaven

Leaven, in Hebrew chametz (Hebrew: חמץ ḥamets, “leavening”) is made from one of five types of grains combined with water and left to stand for more than eighteen minutes. The consumption, keeping, and owning of chametz is forbidden during Passover.

A symbol of the Passover holiday is matzo, an unleavened flatbread made solely from flour and water which is continually worked from mixing through baking, so that it is not allowed to rise.

Matzo may be made by machine or by hand. The Torah (like the Christian Bible) contains an instruction to eat matzo, specifically, on the first night of Passover and to eat only unleavened bread during the entire week of Passover. Consequently, the eating of matzo figures prominently in the Passover Seder. There are several explanations for this.

The Torah says that it is because the Hebrews left Egypt with such haste that there was no time to allow baked bread to rise; thus flat, unleavened bread, matzo, is a reminder of the rapid departure of the Exodus.

Passover Seder


It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover for a special dinner called a Seder. The table is set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of the meal.

During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. Four cups of wine are consumed at various stages during the story. The Haggadah divides the night’s procedure into 15 parts:

Kadeish/ Qadēsh קדש – recital of Kiddush blessing and drinking of the first cup of wine

1. recital of Kiddush blessing and drinking of the first cup of wine

2. the washing of the hands – without blessing

3. dipping of the karpas in salt water


4. breaking the middle matzo; the larger piece becomes the afikoman which is eaten later during the ritual of Tzafun

5. retelling the Passover story, including the recital of “the four questions” and drinking of the second cup of wine

6. second washing of the hands – with blessing

7. traditional blessing before eating bread products

8. blessing before eating matzo

9. eating of the maror


10. eating of a sandwich made of matzo and maror

11. the serving of the holiday meal

12. eating of the afikoman

13. blessing after the meal and drinking of the third cup of wine

14. recital of the Hallel, traditionally recited on festivals; drinking of the fourth cup of wine

15. conclusion


These 15 parts symbolize the 15 steps in the Temple in Jerusalem on which the Levites stood during Temple services, and which were memorialized in 15 Psalms.

The Seder is full of questions, answers, and unusual practices to arouse the interest and curiosity of the children at the table. The children are also rewarded with nuts and candies when they ask questions and participate in the discussion of the Exodus (when everyone left Egypt) and its aftermath. They are also encouraged to search for the afikoman, the piece of matzo which is the last thing eaten at the Seder.

Audience participation and interaction is the rule, and many families’ Seders last long into the night with animated discussions and much singing. The Seder concludes with additional songs of praise and faith printed in the Haggadah, including Chad Gadya (“One Little Kid” or “One Little Goat”).

Four cups of wine

There is a Rabbinic requirement that four cups of wine are to be drunk during the Seder meal. This applies to both men and women. The Mishnah says (Pes. 10:1) that even the poorest man in Israel has an obligation to drink.

Each cup is connected to a different part of the Seder: the first cup is for Kiddush, the second cup is connected with the recounting of the Exodus, the drinking of the third cup concludes Birkat Hamazon and the fourth cup is associated with Hallel.


Four questions

Children have a very important role in the Passover Seder. The youngest child is prompted to ask questions about the Passover Seder, beginning with the words, Mah Nishtana HaLeila HaZeh (Why is this night different from all other nights?). The questions encourage the gathering to discuss the significance of the symbols in the meal. The questions asked by the child are:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights, we eat either unleavened or leavened bread, but tonight we eat only unleavened bread?

On all other nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight, we eat only bitter herbs?

On all other nights, we do not dip [our food] even once, but tonight we dip twice?


On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but tonight we only recline?


The afikoman – an integral part of the Seder itself – is used to engage the interest and excitement of the children at the table. During the fourth part of the Seder, called Yachatz, the leader breaks the middle piece of matzo into two.

He sets aside the larger portion as the afikoman. Many families use the afikoman as a device for keeping the children awake and alert throughout the Seder proceedings by hiding the afikoman and offering a prize for its return.

Alternatively, the children are allowed to “steal” the afikoman and demand a reward for its return. In either case, the afikoman must be consumed during the twelfth part of the Seder, Tzafun.

Concluding songs
After the Hallel, the fourth glass of wine is drunk, and participants recite a prayer that ends in “Next year in Jerusalem!”.


This is followed by several lyric prayers that expound upon God’s mercy and kindness, and give thanks for the survival of the Jewish people through a history of exile and hardship.

Kiddle Encyclopedia




Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: