April 15, 2024

Everything You Need to Know About Passover

Family Celebrating Pesach

Passover, or Pesach, marks a meaningful time on the Jewish calendar. Its history spans back millennia yet its traditions and celebrations remain an important part of our culture to this day. In this article, we will delve deeper into the origins, significance, and customs of Passover, as well as highlight the link charity has with this holiday.

What Is Passover?

Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is one of the faith’s most widely celebrated and important holidays, holding great significance to Jewish history and diaspora.

It occurs every Spring on the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. This aligns with the agricultural springtime when the Israelites were liberated from slavery and began their journey to the Promised Land. The Torah itself instructs Jews to observe Passover for seven days. According to the Midrash, even after the Jews fled Egypt on the first day of Passover, the Egyptians continued to hunt them down until the Red Sea parted seven days later. For this reason, even though the Exodus began on the first day, it wasn’t finished until the seventh. Thus, those seven days must be commemorated. 

The Passover Origin and History

The origins of Passover can be traced back to approximately 3,500 years ago when Moses led the Israelites out of bondage under Pharaoh’s rule. Jewish people faced 400 years of slavery in Egypt before they were freed by the miraculous events described in the book of Exodus. Passover, also known as Pesach in Hebrew, commemorates this significant event and is still celebrated to this day.

The word “Passover” comes from the Hebrew word “Pesach”, which means to pass over or to spare. This term refers to the final and most famous of the ten plagues that God inflicted upon Egypt, known as the Plague of Death. According to Jewish tradition, God spared the homes of the Israelites and their firstborn sons when He saw that they had marked their doorposts with the blood of a lamb. This event is considered a symbol of redemption and freedom for Jewish people.

How Passover Is Celebrated

Jews use Passover as a time to remember and retell the story of their ancestors’ journey from slavery to freedom. It is one of three Pilgrimage Festivals that traditionally saw Israelites traveling to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple in ancient times. Today, Passover is celebrated with family and friends through ritual Seder meals that retell the story of Exodus through symbolic foods, readings from the Haggadah (a guidebook for the Seder), and songs.

The other two Pilgrimage Festivals or Shalosh Regalim celebrated after Passover are Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (the Feast of Booths). All three mark changes in Israel’s agricultural season, with Passover celebrating the beginning of spring and the start of the harvest.

The Meaning of the Modern Jewish Holiday of Passover

The story of Passover is also significant in Judaism as it represents the birth of the Jewish nation and its covenant with God. After being freed from slavery, Moses led his people to Mount Sinai where they received the Ten Commandments and established a new relationship with God. This event is known as the Giving of the Torah and is celebrated during another important Jewish holiday, Shavuot.

In addition to its historical significance, Passover also holds great religious and cultural importance for Jews around the world. Who have endured many bouts of persecution over the years, and with each passing instance comes another reason to celebrate a collective strength as a people. 

This and other Jewish holidays are likewise a meaningful time to sign up to volunteer for Jewish charities. Contributing time to organizations that help the poor, nonprofits for children’s education, and support groups for widows honors the meaning of Passover while bringing the Chabad movement’s teachings into everyday practice.

What Traditional Passover Celebrations Look Like

Traditions of Passover still hold true thousands of years later.

Passover Seder

The Passover meal, or Seder, is one of the most significant aspects of this Jewish holiday. It ties back to the original Passover story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and their journey to freedom.

“Seder” means “order,” and in this context, refers to a specific order that must be followed during Passover meal observances. The Haggadah outlines the specific steps and rituals that are part of the Seder, which typically takes place on the first two nights of Passover. Several prayers and blessings such as the Kiddush (blessing over wine), the 4 cups of wine, the Afikoman, and the recitation of the Four Questions are an integral part of this meal.

The Seder Plate

The Seder plate is a central component of the Passover meal. It holds several symbolic foods that represent different aspects of the Passover story.

These include…

  • Maror: Bitter herbs, usually horseradish, to symbolize the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.
  • Charoset: A mixture of apples, nuts, and wine that represents the mortar used by the Israelites to build structures for their Egyptian captors.
  • Karpas: Karpas, such as parsley, celery, or potato, symbolizes the backbreaking work of Jews as slaves. The Hebrew letters in karpas can spell perech plus samech, which means backbreaking work and is equivalent to 60 myriads, referring to 600,000 Jewish males over 20 years of age enslaved in Egypt.
  • Z’roa: A roasted lamb shank bone that represents the Paschal sacrifice made by the Israelites before leaving Egypt.
  • Beitzah: A hard-boiled egg, which symbolizes new life and the cycle of renewal.

Maos Chitim

Maos Chitim, also known as “Kimcha D’Pischa” in Hebrew, is a Jewish tradition of providing financial assistance and resources to those in need during the Passover holiday. The phrase translates to “wheat money” so that they can make Matzah, which is unleavened bread, an integral part of the Seder, and the only bread one can eat during the festival.

Honor Passover With Colel Chabad

These days don’t need to donate literal wheat to participate in Maos Chitim. Colel Chabad is a long-standing humanitarian organization in Israel, dating back to 1788. We provide vital assistance to the most vulnerable and there are plenty of other ways of manifesting tzedakah, loving-kindness, and generosity. For example, some may choose to donate money to Israeli charities that combat food insecurity. Others focus on specific causes in need of support by giving to charities for widows and orphans or individuals with disabilities.

In any case, the beliefs of Judaism place a strong emphasis on giving back both during Passover and throughout the rest of the year. One can make an impact by donating money or engaging in any other levels in The Eight Degrees of Giving.

Give to Israel’s Needy With Colel Chabad

As the oldest Jewish charity in Israel’s long history of Jewish charities, Colel Chabad is the best organization to donate to this Passover. Our non-profit was founded upon the principles of the Chabad movement over 200 years ago and continues to serve those in need through a variety of philanthropic initiatives.

This includes community food banks, support groups for widows, and healthcare resources for vulnerable populations. There are plenty of ways to give, and you can sign up to volunteer on either an individual or group basis.

Every contribution goes towards change, which is much needed as Israel stares down yet another tumultuous time of challenge and uncertainty, it is more important than ever to donate to charity. Don’t wait – support the Jewish community’s present and future by getting involved with Colel Chabad today.


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