Jewish families in Israel and across the world will sit around tables this evening for the traditional Passover Seder. The ritual meal marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday, which lasts seven days in Israel and eight in the diaspora.
Passover occurs every year during the month of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar, usually around March or April. Along with Shavuot (Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), Passover is one of the three pilgrimage festivals during which the ancient Israelites would ascend to the Temple in Jerusalem, as commanded by the Torah.
The holiday is named for the story behind it, when the angel of God passed over the houses of the enslaved Israelites in Egypt and saved them, prior to their escape.
The word Passover is taken from Exodus 12:13: “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
Just as the blood on the doorposts protected the Israelites and caused the angel of death to “pass over” their houses, in the same way, Jesus (Yeshua) is referred to as the Passover Lamb as His blood protects us from the curse of sin and death. (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Since Jesus was Jewish, he had a Passover meal with his followers the day before his crucifixion on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. The Last Supper was actually a Seder feast. According to the Gospel of Mark 14:12, Jesus prepared for the Last Supper on the “first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb.”
This year, the start of Passover coincides with Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified.
Seder means “order” in Hebrew. In this ceremonial meal, the Jews tell the story of Passover in a specific order using the Haggadah. The Haggadah is a booklet used as a guide for the meal. Intertwining songs as well, the Haggadah tells the story of the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt with the Lord leading them with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Retelling the story to Jewish children each year is a fulfillment of a mitzvah – a good deed done from religious duty.
During the holiday, observant Jews refrain from eating or holding leavened foods, known as chametz (grains like wheat, oats, rye, barley and spelt). The custom is a reminder that when the Israelites fled Egypt, they left with unrisen dough in their packs.
According to the tradition, Jews are also obligated to relive the experience of liberation and freedom, while imagining each time as if they were personally going out of Egypt. For each generation, “Egypt” takes a different shape. And in 2022, many Israelis are celebrating their liberation from the COVID pandemic.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.