Passover – more than Matzo

By on April 16, 2003

Passover is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the Hebrews’ freedom from slavery in Egypt. It is a religious festival celebrating the fact that God is the redeemer of the Hebrews from the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh who forced the Hebrews into slavery in ancient Egypt.

Today, several different traditions are followed for Passover.

“Being one of the major Jewish holidays, I feel it is very important for me to go home and celebrate with my family,” said freshman Jocelyn Schwartz.

Freshman Scott Shillet said that he, too, will be going home to celebrate this holiday with his family.

“Every year my whole family gathers together for a Seder,” said Shillet.

In the Seder, there are 15 steps that use seven main symbolic foods to remind the Jewish people of their time in slavery.

“The first Seder is really important,” said Schwartz. “Here it is a Jewish tradition to break Matzo into three pieces. The middle pieces get broken again in two, and one of the pieces is hidden in the house for the young kids to find. Whoever finds it first gets a prize.” Through the Passover story and the Seder, Jewish people discuss past tragedies, the future, freedom and redemption of their people.

It started almost 4,000 years ago with the famine in the land of Canaan, now known as Palestine. This forced the Hebrew patriarch Jacob and his family to move to Egypt.

For hundreds of years the Hebrews prospered and their population grew to almost three million people. This made the Pharaoh very nervous for he felt that since the Hebrew numbers were growing they might side with Egypt’s enemies in a time of war.

The Pharaoh then enslaved the Hebrews and ordered that all newborn Hebrew males be killed. Upon hearing this, one woman concerned for her son’s life put him into a basket and sent him floating down the Nile River, where the Pharaoh’s daughter found the child, decided to raise him as her own and named him Moses. Moses was secretly taught the Hebrew ways by his birth mother who managed to get hired to take care of young Moses.

As an adult Moses fled Egypt and for forty years he lived in the desert. Then God spoke to Moses in the form of a burning bush. God told Moses that he was selected to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and into freedom.

Moses returned to Egypt where he told the Pharaoh about the plagues that would be inflicted on the Egyptians if the Hebrews were not freed. Every time the Pharaoh refused to free the Hebrews God sent a plague down upon Egypt.

The plague caused the greatest emotional outcry from the Egyptian people, and finally convinced the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews leave Egypt.

The last plague is also how Passover got its name. The Hebrews where instructed to spread the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of each Hebrew home, so that when the Angel of Death approached a household to slay the first-born son in a family as God had warned, it would ‘pass over’ the homes with the blood.

This year, Passover began at sundown on April 16 and will last for eight days, or seven days for Reform Jews and Jews in Israel. This is from 15 Nissan 5763 to 22 Nissan 5763 in the Hebrew calendar.


About Sarah Sztuk