Tuesday 27 March 2012


Passover (Pesach) begins at sunset on April 6 this year.  On this evening, Jewish families will celebrate the first of two Passover Seders, a formalized meal during which the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt is remembered both in words and prayers and in the food they eat.

To understand Seder, you need to understand the Passover story.  You can find a good recounting on line at   
It’s a nuanced story and many of the nuances are reflected in Passover tradition.  

I can't pretend to have enough knowledge to recount the story and its subsequent traditions in detail.  In a nutshell, though, the Jews emigrated to Egypt where they prospered to such an extent that the Egyptians perceived them to be a threat.  They enslaved the Jews and put them to work building treasure houses.  When the Jews continued to prosper, the pharaoh ordered that all newborn Jewish males be put to death. 

Moses survived the death edict because he was born prematurely and his mother was able to hide the fact of his birth.  Moses’ mother hid him in a basket and left him floating at the edge of the Nile, where he was found by the pharaoh’s daughter.  She took him back to the palace and raised him as her son.

As a young man, Moses killed an Egyptian for beating a Jew and was forced to flee to the desert.  He married there and worked as a shepherd, caring for his father-in-law’s sheep.  While herding the sheep, Moses heard the voice of God speaking from a burning bush, instructing him to return to help his people.

 Moses and his brother Aaron returned to Egypt and began to rouse the Jewish people.  The pharaoh was greatly angered.  He met with Moses and Aaron but refused to release the Jews, instead increasing their burden of labour.

God punished the pharaoh by sending the Egyptians ten plagues.  The last plague killed all of the firstborn males in every Egyptian household.  The Jews had sacrificed lambs and spread the sacrificial blood on the lintel posts of their doors.  The lambs’ blood identified their homes so that the angel of death passed them over, sparing Jewish children from the plague.

After the tenth plague, the pharaoh gave the Jews permission to leave Egypt but he sent his armies after them.  The Jews departed so hastily that they didn’t even take time to leaven their bread.  Their only provisions for their journey were unleavened.

During Passover, Jews remember the Exodus by removing all leaven from their possession for seven days, eating matzah, and telling the story of their redemption to their children.

During the days preceding Passover, Jews methodically clean their homes, removing any trace of chametz (leavened grain products). They prepare a Passover kitchen and take pains to use dishes and utensils that have not been used to serve chametz. 

Because kosher foods prepared the rest of the year can - and often do - contain chametz, they are not necessarily kosher for Passover.   Passover foods are specially prepared and certified to be free of leavened grain. 

Having grown up in a household where holiday traditions were largely centered on socializing, I’m intrigued and impressed by a holiday tradition so deeply centered upon honouring history and spiritual beliefs.  I find the symbolism of the Passover Seder fascinating. 

If you, like me, are interested in learning more about Pesach, it’s history, it’s traditions, and the meanings behind its observances, you’ll find the websites listed below to be of interest:

Enjoy your reading. 
image source:


April J Harris said...

This is an excellent post! I too am intrigued by the Passover traditions. We celebrated a Passover meal at our church once. Our pastor was keen to impress the importance of the Jewish faith on us because it is the faith that Jesus was brought up in. He felt it might deepen our understanding and our faith, and it really was an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing this post - I really enjoyed reading it.

Aunt B said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I enjoyed writing it. For me, one of the very best things about blogging is that I am always in the process of learning. My life is so much richer it!

aynzan said...

I love horseradish..and thanks for explaining the clearing ,cleaning and preparing it in an easy step by step method.:)

Aunt B said...

You're very welcome. I'm glad you found the post helpful. :)