Explain the Passover holiday to us

Pessah, or Jewish Passover, has been celebrated this year since Monday. This period commemorates the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, freed from slavery by Moses.



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An American Jewish family celebrates Passover together.  The Seder leader breaks the matzo (illustrative photo, March 4, 2022) (HALBERGMAN / E+)

Jewish Passover lasts until Tuesday April 30. Along with Yom Kippur, Passover is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish religion. On the occasion of Passover, Jews commemorate an episode from the Old Testament, the Exodus. The moment when the Hebrews, led by Moses, fled Egypt where they were held in slavery by Pharaoh. Passover means exactly “to pass over”, in reference to the tenth plague which fell on Egypt: the death of all the first born. In the Bible, this curse spares the Hebrews, it “passes over” their homes.

The course of this celebration

The Passover holiday lasts seven days in Israel, eight days for Jews in the diaspora. It has two highlights: the first evening, which marks the exit from Egypt, and the last evening, which commemorates the crossing of the Red Sea. The time most attended by Jewish families is the first evening with a big meal called the Seder.

Several essential foods are on the table for this meal. First there is unleavened bread, this unleavened flatbread, in memory of the bread that the Hebrews had to take in a hurry, without having time to wait for the dough to rise. We also find bitter herbs such as horseradish, celery, romaine, which symbolize the harshness of slavery and a lamb’s bone, because the Hebrews had drawn a cross with lamb’s blood on their door, so that their houses may be spared from the tenth plague of Egypt. During the meal, you can also read the Haggadah, a set of religious texts that recount the Exodus.

A symbol of freedom and renewal

It is the end of the slavery of the Hebrew people. More concretely, it is also the opportunity for a big spring cleaning. For one week, it is forbidden to consume or possess bread or any other food made from yeast dough. It is therefore necessary to thoroughly clean all the rooms in the house that could contain them.

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