Starting at sundown today (3/29/2010), Jewish people around the world will be celebrating Passover. Passover is a Spring festival that symbolizes freedom.
Pesach begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. It is the first of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Shavu’ot and Sukkot). Agriculturally, it represents the beginning of the harvest season in Israel, but little attention is paid to this aspect of the holiday.
The name “Pesach” comes from the Hebrew root Pei-Samekh-Cheit Pei-Samekh-Cheit (in Hebrew), meaning to pass through, to pass over, to exempt or to spare. It refers to the fact that G-d “passed over” the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt. In English, the holiday is known as Passover. “Pesach” is also the name of the sacrificial offering (a lamb) that was made in the Temple on this holiday. The holiday is also referred to as Chag he-Aviv Chag he-Aviv (in Hebrew), (the Spring Festival), Chag ha-Matzot Chag ha-Matzot (in Hebrew), (the Festival of Matzahs), and Z’man Cheiruteinu Z’man Cheiruteinu (in Hebrew), (the Time of Our Freedom) (again, all with those Scottish “ch”s).
Probably the most significant observance related to Pesach involves the removal of chametz (leaven; sounds like “hum it’s” with that Scottish “ch”) from our homes. This commemorates the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry, and did not have time to let their bread rise. It is also a symbolic way of removing the “puffiness” (arrogance, pride) from our souls.
The grain product we eat during Pesach is called matzah. Matzah is unleavened bread, made simply from flour and water and cooked very quickly. This is the bread that the Jews made for their flight from Egypt. We have come up with many inventive ways to use matzah; it is available in a variety of textures for cooking: matzah flour (finely ground for cakes and cookies), matzah meal (coarsely ground, used as a bread crumb substitute), matzah farfel (little chunks, a noodle or bread cube substitute), and full-sized matzahs (about 10 inches square, a bread substitute).
I love celebrating Passover because it is a great time to bring family together and nothing is better than family. I rarely make it the whole time eating just matzah, but I do try, but I guess I’m not the BEST Jew out there.
Happy Pesach to all the Jews out there! Enjoy the time with your family!