Passover begins the evening of Monday, April 22 and continues through Monday, April 29, 2024
14-21 Nisan 5784

What Is Passover?

The name “Passover” derives from Moses’ promise that God would “pass over” the homes of Israelites on the evening when firstborn Egyptians were to be slain (Exodus 12:23).

One of the major elements of Passover is the seder (meaning “order”), a ritual dinner with a prescribed order of prayers, readings and songs that are found in a special book called the Haggadah. Another of the major traditions during Passover is a prohibition against eating chameitz, leavened foods made of wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt (as well as rice, corn, peas, beans and peanuts in the Ashkenazic tradition). In place of chameitz, Jews are commanded to eat matzah during Passover — an unleavened product of the five grains — which serves as both a reminder of the haste in which the Jews left Egypt (having no time to bake leavened bread) and as a symbol of oppression because it was the food eaten by Jews who were enslaved.

The Conclusion of Passover is one of the four times of year when our community mourns together through the recitation of the memorial prayers in remembrance of those whom we have loved and lost. (The others are Shavuot, Yom Kippur and Sh’mini Atzeret.)

Understanding the Seder

The imperative of the seder is to tell the story: to explore it, probe it, question it and, thus, to make it brilliantly vivid. The Exodus from Egypt is the formative event of the Jewish people, and the aim of the seder is to see ourselves inside this narrative, to relive the experience in the present. The Haggadah embraces many questions, and there are things each family does differently, all to prod our curiosity and provoke discussions that draw us deeper into the sequence of events that take us from slavery to freedom and then to revelation and redemption.