Passover is the one Holiday besides the New Year which is celebrated by a majority of all Jews from around the globe. The preparations for this Holiday very often drive people nuts. The commandment is not to have any leavened product in your home during this 8 day period; this means that the house must be cleared of bread and all other such foodstuffs. And that’s on top of cleaning and cooking in preparation for the family gathering. Especially with small children in the household, it’s not hard to see why people get a little crazy at this time of year!
This Holiday also brings back very pleasant memories for many though, because it is a coming together of family. For example, I most remember my grandmother coming over every year. She used to make an extraordinary large jar of horseradish with beets, and a large jar of apple sauce. I also remember my mother taking out a grinder and grinding fish to create the fish loaf that we ate at the Seder.
Passover is known for the eating of unleavened bread and the asking of questions by children during Seder, the ritual meal that commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. The most famous questions are usually asked by the youngest child, and are called the four questions. For example, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” and, “Why do we dip not once but twice during the Seder?”. For a full explanation of the rituals of Passover, consult library titles such as Telling the Story: A Passover Haggadah Explained.
Besides eating unleavened bread the type of foods eaten on Passover varies between Jews with a European heritage and Jews with a Middle East or Spanish heritage. Everyone eats meat, chicken, dairy foods (though not together with meat), but those with a Middle Eastern or Spanish heritage eat rice, corn or peas, while those with a European heritage do not.
The theme of Passover is freedom and becoming a nation. In ancient times, the Jews escaped slavery in Egypt and gained their freedom. This was also the time that Jews became a nation, an entity beyond the members of a single family. This year the Holiday starts at sundown of April 14th and ends after sundown on April 22nd, in remembrance of this achievement.
Contributed by: Edward Schabes, Library Assistant, Midtown