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difference from Orthodox, tradition, history, how to celebrate

The most important time in the Jewish holiday calendar is coming soon: Passover. What does the word “Passover” mean, when does it begin, why is Passover celebrated and how does Passover differ from Easter – in the material 78.ru.

The dates of Passover are different every year, this is due to the fact that they are determined not by the Gregorian or Julian calendar, accepted throughout the world, but by the solar-lunar calendar, according to which Israel lives.

Passover begins on the 14th day of the month of Nisan and ends on the 21st day of this month. Nissan usually falls in March-April according to the Gregorian calendar, so Passover has another name – Hag HaAviv, that is, “spring festival.” Passover 2024 is celebrated starting from sunset on Monday, April 22, until the evening of Tuesday, April 30. It is interesting that in Israel it is celebrated for 7 days, and in the rest of the world for 8 days, since from a religious point of view, Jews who live outside Israel have not yet been freed from slavery.

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At the same time, only the first and last days of Passover are considered holidays, that is, non-working days. The days between these dates are considered “weekday holidays” and are called Chol HaMoed; during this time you can work, but on a reduced schedule. In Israel, only schools are closed these days, and employers often provide partially paid leave to employees so that they can spend time with their families.

Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays. Translated, its name means “passed by,” and this is associated with the events described in the main religious book of the Jews – the Torah, specifically in the 12th chapter of the Book of Exodus.

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Back in the Book of Genesis, God warned the prophet Abraham that his descendants would be “strangers in a land that is not theirs” and would become slaves for 400 years. And so it happened: an unnamed Egyptian pharaoh enslaved the Jews, and they lived in oppression for 210 years, as stated in the Talmud, the rulebook of Judaism.

However, then the prophet Moses appeared, who was ordered by God to lead the Jews out of Egypt and lead them to Canaan – the Promised Land, in order to free them from slavery. When Moses asked Pharaoh about this, he refused, and then the angry God sent “ten Egyptian plagues” on his subjects. First, the water in the Nile turned into blood, then there was an invasion of toads and midges, then dog flies, and a cattle pestilence began; then the inhabitants of Egypt began to be covered with ulcers and boils, thunder, lightning and hail of fire fell on them from the sky, followed by an invasion of locusts. Finally, darkness covered the entire land of Egypt for three days.

The last plague that befell Egypt was the death of the firstborn in all families, including the family of the pharaoh himself. The misfortune spared only the families of Jews, whom God ordered in advance to slaughter the lambs, bake their meat at the stake, and smear the doorposts with blood – by these marks the angels recognized them and passed by their houses. This is where the name of the Passover holiday came from – the sacrifice of Jewish children did not affect, that is, “passed by”, “passed by”. It is believed that this happened on the full moon of the 14th day of Nisan, when Passover is still celebrated.

After this, Pharaoh agreed to release the Jews and allowed Moses to lead them out of Egypt; According to legend, they were assembled so quickly that even the dough did not have time to rise. This is where another name for the holiday comes from – Chag HaMatzot, that is, “the holiday of unleavened food” or “the holiday of matzo”, since the Jews were able to take with them only matzo – unleavened flatbread, the dough for which did not need to be fermented before cooking.

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However, after the Jews left Egypt, Pharaoh followed them with his army and pursued them for seven days. On the seventh day, the Jews approached the Red Sea, the waters of which, according to legend, parted before Moses and allowed the fugitives to pass, and when Pharaoh’s troops stepped on the free bottom, the water closed over their heads. Passover ends with the celebration of this event, which is why it lasts for a week.

Despite the similarity in names, there is actually little in common between Jewish Passover and Christian Easter.

Passover is the holiday of the Exodus, a symbol of liberation from slavery; on this day, Jews thank God for salvation, help and protection. In addition, Passover is a bridge between the past and the present, and marks freedom and the fight for justice. Easter is the holiday of the Resurrection of Christ, that is, His rising from the dead after execution, a symbol of the eternal life that faith gives.

However, there are also overlaps between these holidays – primarily in dates. Easter is a moving holiday; its date, like Passover, is determined according to the lunar calendar. According to religious sources, the Savior was resurrected in the spring, when the Jews celebrated Passover. And on the 14th of Nisan, that is, on the first day of Passover, the Last Supper took place – the last meeting of Christ with his disciples before his execution.

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In addition, as the Gospel description says, during this meeting Christ compared himself with the Passover lamb – the same lamb that the Jews sacrificed in order to mark their houses with his blood before the tenth Egyptian plague and finally be saved from slavery.

Thus, the events of Passover and Easter intersect, but rather symbolically, and these holidays are definitely not similar to each other.

Passover, whose traditions date back to ancient times, is a very important holiday for Jews. Preparation for it can last up to a month – before the holiday, the streets and houses are thoroughly cleaned, and on the holiday itself everything should be cleaned to a shine.

All yeast products, which are called “chametz,” are removed from the house; they are prohibited not only from eating, but also from storing. There is a tradition in families: on the morning before the holiday, the head of the family goes around the house with a candle, a feather and a wooden spoon in search of the remaining yeast products – even crumbs, and if he finds them, he collects them with a feather on a spoon, and then burns the spoon. Or the discovered chametz can be temporarily sold or gifted to a non-Jew. In Israel, even on the eve of Passover, the remaining chametz in warehouses and stores is symbolically sold to the same Arab, Hussein Jabar, with whom the deal is terminated after the holiday.

On the eve of the holiday, it is customary for first-born men to fast – they refuse food and water from sunrise to sunset. This serves as a reminder of the miraculous salvation of the Jewish firstborns during the tenth Egyptian plague.

And after sunset, the whole family gathers at the table for a festive dinner – Seder, which means “order” in Hebrew. It is divided into two parts – traditional and ordinary holiday.

The main tradition of the Seder is the reading of the Haggadah – the “Tale of Passover”, a book where all the events of the Exodus are retold along with prayers. While reading the Haggadah, you cannot do anything else except listen, if you cannot read.

As part of the traditional part, a Seder plate with products is necessarily served on the table, each of which is a symbol of one or another circumstance before and during the Exodus:

  • matzo – unleavened unleavened flatbread, which, according to legend, the Jews took with them on the road before the Exodus, symbolizes their sorrow and suffering,
  • maror – bitter greens, lettuce, watercress and others, symbolizes the bitterness that the Jews experienced during slavery,
  • zroa – lamb shank, chicken drumstick or wing, which is a reference to the Passover sacrifice; however, it is not customary to eat it during the Seder,
  • hazeret – grated horseradish, which also focuses on the hard life of Jews in slavery,
  • beitsa – a hard-boiled egg, this is a memory of festive sacrifices in the temple of Jerusalem,
  • karpas – a vegetable or herb that is soaked in salt water – is a reminder of the tears shed in slavery,
  • charoset is a sweet paste made from grated apples, nuts, dates and cinnamon, it symbolizes the clay from which the Jews in slavery made bricks for construction.

In addition, wine is served at the Seder (grape juice for children). You must drink 4 glasses of it – as a symbol of God’s four appeals to the Jews with promises of freedom: “And I will lead you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians…”; “And I will deliver you…”; “And I will save you…”; “And I will accept you…” You also need to eat a certain amount of matzo – at least 17 grams in 4 minutes.

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In the second part of the dinner, the usual holiday dishes are served, for example, stuffed fish, and it ends with a game with matzo – adults separate part of it, “afikoman”, and hide it, and the children have to find it. In addition, during the Seder it is customary to interpret the essence of Passover to the “four sons”—the simple, the sinful, the wise and the young—whose roles are played by children.

Another tradition is associated with the prophet Elijah or Eliyahu. According to Jewish beliefs, during Passover the coming of the Messiah, the Moshiach, should take place, and it will be preceded by the coming of the prophet Elijah. So that he can enter the house, the front door is left open for him, and the fifth glass of wine is left untouched for him.

After the Seder there are five “holidays” – Chol HaMoed. In Israel, it is a time of unbridled fun, with festivals and other events held and families heading to beaches, museums and parks. Passover ends with the symbolic “parting of the seas” in memory of how the waters of the Red Sea parted for the Jews and closed behind them, burying the Egyptian army. On this day, a passage from the Torah is read that talks about this.

Matzo is unleavened bread, the thickness of which is no more than 2 mm and which is distinguished by characteristic holes. It is prepared only from water and wheat flour, without adding eggs, salt, sugar, and especially yeast. At the same time, it cooks very quickly – it is believed that kosher matzo should be cooked in 18 minutes. This is due to the fact that the dough should not be allowed to ferment, as this is prohibited by religious rules, so it must be kneaded quickly, the cakes must be thin, and holes on the surface allow air to escape faster, which also slows down the fermentation process.

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Ingredients: 250 g wheat flour, 100 ml ice water.

Recipe: combine the sifted flour and water, quickly knead the dough, divide into 4-6 parts and roll out just as quickly – ideally to a thickness of 2 mm. Use a fork to make holes in the dough. You can bake the flatbreads in a dry hot frying pan without oil or in the oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees.

There are two main prohibitions on Passover: eating chametz, that is, yeast products, and working on the first and last days of the holiday. However, both have their own nuances.

On Passover it is forbidden to eat not only yeast bread, but also all products that involve fermentation, that is, leaven. Among them are five grains: rye, spelt, wheat, oats and barley, as well as products made from them. In addition, drinks made from them are prohibited, including beer, gin and vodka. Eating rice, beans and corn is also prohibited.

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Of the wheat products, only matzo is allowed to be eaten, and on the eve of Passover it is also prohibited – it is believed that ordinary matzo cannot be mixed with the sacred matzo of the Seder.

Believing Jews also keep separate dishes for Passover that have never come into contact with yeast products, or they carefully wash ordinary dishes and sometimes even take them to the rabbi for cleansing.

Working during Passover is prohibited on the first and last day: even transport does not operate in Israel on these days. However, this only applies to work that is done to earn money—full-fledged professional work, which is called “melacha gmura,” is prohibited. However, ironing clothes, cleaning shoes, and sewing are possible these days, if this is not a source of income.

In general, during Passover it is important to spend time with family, participate in religious rituals and, of course, celebrate the liberation of the people from slavery.

People called the time before Passover Jewish groups. It is believed that at this time the weather changes dramatically – it gets colder and snow may suddenly fall. “Heaps” may have been called by analogy with the “bumps” along which the weather “jumps” these days, or perhaps because of the Jewish tradition of gathering to celebrate Passover.

There are other folk signs about the weather on this day: for example, it was believed that if there is frost in the morning on Passover, this promises a good harvest, and if snow falls, the summer will be cold. A warm Passover heralds a sunny and hot summer, and rains herald a rich and happy year.

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