When we tour Israel, people always ask about the different holidays in the Jewish calendar, I always say to people that most Jewish holidays falls under the same 3 definitions:
They were trying to kill us,
Passover this year, 2021, begins on Saturday night, March 27 and continues through Sunday, April 4, indeed falls under this explanation. Interesting that this year Easter is at the end of Passover, April 4 is Easter this year, not always it comes together with Passover, only once in 19 years according to the cycle of the sun and the moon. These two holidays are connected of course, make sure you read our blog about Easter as well and about Palm Sunday also.
For the Jews, Passover represents the time we went out of slavery into freedom, this was physical freedom, and 50 days later, we went into spiritual freedom on Shavuot (Pentecost) when we received the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Passover for Christians has a different meaning, Jesus went on the cross on Passover, being the lamb who paid for mankind’s sins (the Passover sacrifice) and 50 days later, on Pentecost, the holy fire came on the disciples and they received spiritual freedom.
Go to our website www.israelwithmoshe.com and visit the “Jewish Holidays” video series
Below is a short explanation about this holiday and its meaning in Jewish tradition, followed by a video about the meaning of Passover for both Jews and Christians.
History of Passover
The first Passover (proto Passover) celebration in the Bible is found in Genesis Chapter 18, where we read how Abraham and Sarah were visited by angels who informed them that they would bear a son one year later. Tradition records that the visit (and Isaac’s birth) was on Passover. This is not stated explicitly, but the astute reader will note that Abraham instructs Sarah to knead some cakes (ugot) for their guests. This same term is used regarding the Passover matzah that their descendants would eat every year on Passover. Thus the conclusion is reached that it must have been Passover.
The First Mandated Passover
Isaac’s descendants (by then known as the People of Israel) eventually wound up in Egypt, where they were enslaved. The time then came and G‑d decided to free them from their cruel taskmasters and take them back to the land that He had promised them so many years before. He instructed Moses and Aaron to repeatedly ask Pharaoh to release the people of Israel; each time Pharaoh refused, another plague was brought upon the Egyptians: blood, frogs, lice etc.
The Ten Plagues
A summary of the ten plagues G-d wrought upon the Egyptians
When Pharaoh persisted in his refusal to liberate the children of Israel, Moses and Aaron warned him that G‑d would punish both him and his people. And, indeed, G‑d sent the ten plagues, one after the next, until Pharaoh conceded. Below is a list of the ten plagues in Hebrew and a summary of each plague.
What Are the Ten Plagues?
1. Dam – Blood
First, the waters of the land of Egypt were to be turned into blood. Moses walked with Aaron to the brink of the river. There Aaron raised his staff, struck the water, and converted them into streams of blood. All the people of Egypt and the King himself beheld this miracle; they saw the fish die as the blood flowed over the land, and they turned with disgust from the offensive smell of the sacred river. It was impossible for them to drink of the water of the Nile, far-famed for its delicious taste; and they tried to dig deep into the ground for water. Unfortunately for the Egyptians, not only the floods of the Nile but all the waters of Egypt, wherever they were, turned to blood. The fish died in the rivers and lakes, and for a whole week man and beast suffered horrible thirst. Yet Pharaoh would not give in.
2. Tzefardeia – Frogs
After due warning, the second plague came to Egypt. Aaron stretched forth his hand over the waters of Egypt, and frogs swarmed forth. They covered every inch of land and entered the houses and bedrooms; wherever an Egyptian turned, whatever he touched, he found there the slimy bodies of frogs, the croakings of which filled the air. Now Pharaoh became frightened, and he asked Moses and Aaron to pray to G‑d to remove the nuisance, promising that he would liberate the Jewish people at once. But as soon as the frogs disappeared, he broke his promise and refused to let the children of Israel go.
3. Kinim – Bugs
Then G‑d ordered Aaron to strike the dust of the earth with his staff, and no sooner did he do so than all over Egypt bugs crawled forth from the dust to cover the land. Man and beast suffered untold misery from this terrible plague. Although pharaoh’s aids pointed out that this surely was G‑d’s punishment, Pharaoh hardened his heart and remained relentless in his determination to keep the children of Israel in bondage.
4. Arov – Wild Animals
The fourth plague to harass the Egyptians consisted of hordes of wild animals roving all over the country, and destroying everything in their path. Only the province of Goshen where the children of Israel dwelt was immune from this as well as from the other plagues. Again Pharaoh promised faithfully to let the Hebrews go out into the desert on the condition that they would not go too far. Moses prayed to G‑d, and the wild animals disappeared. But as soon as they had gone, Pharaoh withdrew his promise and refused Moses’ demand.
5. Dever – Pestilence
Then G‑d sent a fatal pestilence that killed most of the domestic animals of the Egyptians. How the people must have grieved when they saw their stately horses, the pride of Egypt, perish; when all the cattle of the fields were stricken at the word of Moses; and when the animals upon which they looked as gods died smitten by the plague! They had, moreover, the mortification of seeing the beasts of the Israelites unhurt. Yet Pharaoh still hardened his heart, and would not let the Israelites go.
6. Shechin – Boils
Then followed the sixth plague, which was so painful and horrible that it must have struck the people of Egypt with horror and agony. G‑d commanded Moses to take soot from the furnaces, and to sprinkle it towards heaven; and as Moses did so, boils burst forth upon man and beast throughout the land of Egypt.
7. Barad – Hail
Now, Moses announced to the king that a hail-storm of unprecedented violence was to sweep the land; no living thing, no tree, no herb was to escape its fury unhurt; safety was to be found only in the shelter of the houses; those, therefore, who believed and were afraid might keep in their homes, and drive their cattle into the sheds. Some of the Egyptians took this counsel to heart; but the reckless and the stubborn left their cattle with their servants in the fields. When Moses stretched forth his staff, the hail poured down with violence; deafening thunder rolled over the earth, and lightning rent the heavens, and ran like fire along the ground. The hail did its work of destruction; man and beast who were exposed to its rage died on the spot; the herbs were scattered to the wind, and the trees lay shattered on the ground. But the land of Goshen, untouched by the ravages of the storm, bloomed like a garden amidst the general devastation. Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and acknowledged his sins (Exodus 9:27). “I have sinned this time. The L-rd is the righteous One, and I and my people are the guilty ones. Entreat the L-rd, and let it be enough of G‑d’s thunder and hail, and I will let you go, and you shall not continue to stand.” Moses replied: “When I leave the city, I will spread my hands to the L-d. The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, in order that you know that the land is the L-rd’s.” And it happened as Moses had said: the storm ceased-but Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened.
8. Arbeh – Locust
The next time Moses and Aaron came before Pharaoh, he appeared somewhat relenting, and asked them who was to participate in the worship the Israelites wanted to hold in the desert. When they told him that everyone without exception, young and old, men and women, and animals, were to go, Pharaoh suggested that only the men should go, and that the women and children, as well as all their possessions should remain in Egypt. Moses and Aaron would not accept this offer, and Pharaoh became angry and ordered them to leave his palace. Before leaving, Moses warned him of new and untold suffering. But Pharaoh remained adamant, even though his advisers advised against further resistance. As soon as Moses left the palace, he raised his arms toward heaven and an east wind brought swarms of locusts into Egypt, covering the sun, and devouring everything green that had escaped the hail and previous plagues. Never in the history of mankind had there been such a devastating plague of locusts as this one. It brought complete ruin upon Egypt, which had already been thoroughly ravaged by the previous catastrophes. Again Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and implored them to pray to G‑d to stop the plague. Moses complied, and G‑d sent a strong west wind that drove the locusts into the sea. When relief came, Pharaoh’s obstinacy returned to him, and he refused to liberate the people of Israel.
9. Choshech – Darkness
Then followed the ninth plague. For several days all of Egypt was enveloped in a thick and impenetrable veil of darkness which extinguished all lights kindled. The Egyptians were gripped with fear, and remained glued to their places wherever they stood or sat. Only in Goshen, where the children of Israel dwelt, there was light. But not all of the Jews were saved from this plague. There were a few who wanted to be regarded as Egyptians rather than as members of the Hebrew race, and who tried, therefore, to imitate the Egyptians in everything, or, as we call it, to assimilate themselves. They did not want to leave Egypt. These people died during the days of darkness. Again Pharaoh tried to bargain with Moses and Aaron, bidding them depart with all their people, leaving their flocks and herds behind as a pledge. Moses and Aaron informed him, however, that they would accept nothing less than complete freedom for the men, women, and children, and that they were to take all their belongings with them. Now Pharaoh became angry and ordered Moses and Aaron to leave and never to return. He warned them that if they were to come before him again they would die. Moses replied that it would not be necessary for them to see Pharaoh, for G‑d would send one more plague over Egypt, after which Pharaoh would give his unconditional permission for the children of Israel to leave Egypt. Exactly at midnight, Moses continued, G‑d would pass over Egypt and smite all first-born, man and beast. Of the children of Israel, however, nobody was to die. A bitter cry would sweep Egypt, and all the Egyptians would be gripped with terror, lest they all die. Then Pharaoh himself would come to seek out the leaders of the Hebrews, and beg them to leave Egypt without delay! With these words, Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, who was seething with rage.
The Passover Sacrifice
On the first day of the month of Nissan, two weeks before the Exodus from Egypt, G‑d said to Moses and Aaron: “This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year. Speak to the entire community of Israel, saying (Exodus 12:2-31), “On the tenth of this month, let each one take a lamb for each parental home, a lamb for each household.” On the tenth of this month, let each one take a lamb… a lamb for each household… . a lamb for a household . . . And you shall keep it for inspection until the fourteenth day of this month… And this is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste it is a Passover sacrifice to the L-rd… And I will see the blood and skip over you, and there will be no plague to destroy [you] when I smite the [people of the] land of Egypt. And this day shall be for you as a memorial, and you shall celebrate it as a festival for the L-rd; throughout your generations, you shall celebrate it as an everlasting statute. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the preceding day you shall clear away all leaven from your houses… And it will come to pass if your children say to you, +What is this service to you?’ you shall say, It is a Passover sacrifice to the L-rd, for He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, and He saved our houses!” Moses told all this to the children of Israel. It required a great deal of faith and courage for the children of Israel to carry out this Command, for the lamb was a sacred animal to the ancient Egyptians. But the children of Israel eagerly and fearlessly carried out all that G‑d had ordered.
10. Makkat Bechorot – Death of the Firstborns
Midnight of the fourteenth to the fifteenth of Nissan came, and G‑d struck all first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of King Pharaoh, down to the first-born of a captive in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the cattle, exactly as Moses had warned. There was a loud and bitter wail in each house a loved one lay fatally stricken. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron during that very night, and said to them: “Arise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel; and go, serve the L-rd as you have said; and take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.” At last, then, the pride of the stubborn king was broken. Meanwhile the Hebrews had been preparing for their hasty departure. With beating hearts, they had assembled in groups to eat the Paschal lamb before midnight, arrayed as they had been commanded. The women had taken from the ovens the unleavened cakes, which were eaten with the meat of the roasted lamb. The preparations were at last concluded, and all was ready. At the word of command, the whole nation of the Hebrews poured forth into the cool, still Eastern morning. But not even amidst their trepidation and danger did they forget the pledge given by their ancestors to Joseph, and they carried his remains, with them, to inter them later in the Promised Land.
Finally, as G‑d was about to bring the final plague—the death of the firstborn son—He instructed Moses to tell the people of Israel to prepare by bringing a sheep into their homes. On the night that He was about to bring death upon the Egyptians, the Israelites slaughtered the lambs and ate them with unleavened bread (matzah) and bitter herbs (maror). They were also instructed to take the blood of the lamb and smear it on their doorposts, a sign to G‑d that this was an Israelite home, to be passed over, when death was visited upon the firstborns in all other homes. This is what gave the Passover sacrifice (and holiday) its name. In the original Hebrew, the word is Pesach. At that same time, G‑d also instructed them to observe the Passover celebration every year on the anniversary of their Exodus: at the full moon of the first month of spring (Abib).
This entire episode is known as the Exodus.
Passover in the Desert: The Second Passover
A year after the Exodus, G‑d instructed the people of Israel to bring the Passover offering on the afternoon of the fourteenth of Nissan, and to eat it that evening, roasted over the fire, together with matzah and bitter herbs, as they had done the previous year just before they left Egypt. “There were, however, certain persons who had become ritually impure through contact with a dead body, and could not, therefore, prepare the Passover offering on that day. They approached Moses and Aaron . . . and they said: ‘. . . Why should we be deprived, and not be able to present G‑d’s offering in its time, amongst the children of Israel?’” (Numbers 9: 6-7). In response to their plea, G‑d established the 14th of Iyar as a “Second Passover” (Pesach Sheni) for anyone who was unable to bring the offering at its appointed time in the previous month.
The First Passover in the Promised Land
After 40 years in the desert, Moses passed away just prior to leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. His death was on the 7th of Adar, just five weeks before Passover. In The Book of Joshua, Chapter 5, we read the account of Joshua organizing the circumcision of the Israelite males, something they had not been able to do in the desert. This was followed by a celebration of Passover. “And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and they made the Passover sacrifice on the fourteenth day of the month at evening in the plains of Jericho.” (Joshua 5:10)
The Great Passover Revivals
The next mention2 of Passover is in II Chronicles 30, where we read how King Hezekiah, the righteous king remembered for his campaign to reintroduce the people of Israel to the Torah way of life, sent out messengers enjoining everyone to celebrate Passover with him.Since they were not in a proper state to celebrate Passover on time, they celebrated one month later, on “Pesach Sheini”, the 14th of Iyar (in accordance with the laws of the Second Passover discussed above3.) Despite the fact that the members of some tribes refused to participate, “there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel [there had] not [been] the like in Jerusalem” (II Chronicles 30: 26). Approximately 100 years later, a similar event happened in the days of King Josiah. In the eighteenth year of his rule, Josiah announced his plan to have the Holy Temple renovated. In the course of the repairs, the High Priest Hilkiah found a scroll which turned out to be the Torah scroll written by Moses. The passage that was read before the king contained the warnings of heavy punishment for the Jewish people if they failed to follow in G‑d’s ways. The king was determined that the words of the Torah and the warning of the prophets should spread through the length and breadth of the land. After the Temple was rededicated and the people returned en masse to G‑d, they celebrated Passover in grand scale, such as had not been seen since the days of Samuel the Prophet (II Chronicles 35: 18).
Passover in the Second Temple
Solomon’s Temple was eventually destroyed, and the people were exiled. Decades later, Ezra and Nehemia led a group of Jews who returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple once again. We read in Ezra 6 how the returnees purified themselves and celebrated Passover “with joy, for the L‑rd made them joyful and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to strengthen their hands in the work of the House of G‑d, the G‑d of Israel.”The Passover celebrations then continued in the Second Temple, until it was destroyed by the Romans more than 400 years later.
Following the destruction of the Second Temple and its altar in Jerusalem, we have been unable to celebrate Passover completely, without the sacrifice the Passover lamb. And yet, Jewish people gather every year to celebrate the other elements of this special evening. As we hope and pray for the Passover lamb to be reinstated, matzah and maror are eaten, four celebratory cups of wine are drunk, and Jewish parents tell their children (and themselves) the story of our nation’s miraculous exodus from Egypt.
How to Celebrate Passover
Mandated by the Bible, Passover is celebrated by Jewish people as an annual commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. It is observed for eight days (seven in Israel) during the springtime month of Nisan
· Neither owning nor benefitting from chametz (anything containing grain that has risen, including virtually all breads, cakes, crackers, pastas, whiskeys and beers) from the morning preceding Passover until the holiday has ended.
· The entire home is thoroughly cleaned, all traces of chametz are purged from the kitchen, and whatever remains is sold to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday.
· On the first night of Passover (and the following night in the Diaspora) a festive meal, called a Seder, is held. Some highlights of this meal, which comprises 15 steps:
– Retelling the story of the Exodus, elaborating on the text contained in the Haggadah, the traditional guide-book to the Seder experience. This begins in response to the Four Questions (Ma Nishtana) traditionally asked by a child.
– Eating matzah, flat, hard “bread” that was baked before it had a chance to rise, to recall our ancestors’ urgent flight from Egypt—they left in such a hurry that there was no time for their bread to rise.
– Eating butter herbs to reexperience the bitter taste of slavery.
– Throughout the evening, drinking four cups of wine or grape juice, imbibing the intoxicating sweetness of freedom.
· The first, second, seventh, and eighth days of the holiday (just the first and seventh in Israel) are yom tov, when work is restricted and festive meals are enjoyed.
· On the final day, Yizkor (the memorial prayer for our departed loved ones) is said, and a special meal (Moshiach’s Meal) is enjoyed during the waning hours of the holiday, in anticipation of the Redemption yet to come.
The Passover Seder
The Seder in a nutshell, the Haggadah explained, printable Haggadah, the Four Questions in many languages, and more…
The Seder is a feast that includes reading a book called “Haggadah”, drinking four cups of wine, telling stories, eating special foods, singing, and other Passover traditions.
As per Biblical command, it is held after nightfall on the first night of Passover (and the second night if you live outside of Israel), the anniversary of our nation’s miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery more than 3,000 years ago.
We have below a recipe for Charoset, hope you’ll make it and enjoy it
Watch the below video where I talk about the meaning of Passover for Jews and Christians
HAPPY PESACH (PASSOVER) !
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