The Jewish Passover

By Jemma Bell

The Passover

Passover is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays and commemorates the biblical story of Exodus, when Hebrew slaves were released from slavery in Egypt. Called "pesach" in Hebrew, Passover is a celebration of freedom. Passover is celebrated for seven days in Israel and for eight days in the Diaspora (outside of Israel), in a normal calendar this is around the months of late March or early April. The reason for this difference has to do with the way the ancient calendar worked. The passover was when the angel of death swept over the city and killed all the first born children unless you sacrificed a lamb and spread the blood of the sacrificed over your front door.

The Passover Sedar

The Sedar is a ritual performed by a community or by multiple generations of family, involving the retelling of the story of the liberation of the hebrews from slavery from ancient Egypt. This usually takes place during the Passover Sedar, which is a service held at home as part of the Passover celebration. It is always observed on the first night of Passover, and in some homes on the second night as well. On both nights, the seder concludes with a dinner. Sedar customs include, drinking four cups of wine, eating a passover Sedar plate which contains 6 different types of symbolic food. They include;

  • Maror and Chazeret: Bitter herbs, symbolising the bitterness and harshness of the slavery the Hebrews endured in Egypt.
  • Charoset: A sweet, brown mixture representing the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to build the storehouses and pyramids of Egypt.
  • Karpas: A vegetable other than bitter herbs, which is dipped into salt water at the beginning of the Sedar, the dipping of a simple vegetable into salt water (which represents tears) mirrors the pain felt by the Hebrew slaves.
  • Z'roa: The Z'roa is special as it is the only element of meat on the Sedar plate. A roasted lamb or goat shank bone, chicken wing, or chicken neck; symbolising the korban pesach (pesach sacrifice) which was a lamb that was offered in the Temple of Jerusalem, then roasted and eaten as a part of the meal on Sedar
  • Beitzah: A roasted hard boiled egg, symbolsing the Korban Chagigah (festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple of Jerusalem and roasted and eaten as part of the meal of Sedar night