Culture & Society

Why Is Passover (Pesach) Celebrated?

What Is Passover?
The eight-day festival of Passover (Pesach) is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan, April 8 – April 16, 2020. Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Pesach is observed by avoiding leaven, and highlighted by the Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.

In Hebrew it is known as Pesach (which means “to pass over”), because G‑d passed over the Jewish homes when killing the Egyptian firstborn on the very first Passover eve. The Passover

Story in a Nutshell
After many decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, who subjected the Israelites to unbearable horrors and backbreaking labor. G‑d saw the people’s distress and sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message: “Send forth My people, so that they may serve Me.” But Pharaoh refused to heed G‑d’s command despite numerous warnings. G‑d then sent upon Egypt ten devastating plagues, afflicting them and destroying everything from their livestock to their crops.

At the stroke of midnight of 15 Nissan in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), G‑d sent the last of the ten plagues on the Egyptians, killing all their firstborn. While doing so, G‑d did not harm the children of Israel, “passing over” their homes—hence the name of the holiday. Pharaoh’s resistance was broken, and he chased his former slaves out of his land. In fact, the Israelites left in such a hurry, that the bread they had baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise. Six hundred thousand adult males, plus many more women and children, left Egypt on that day and began the trek to Mount Sinai and their birth as G‑d’s chosen people.

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