History of Passover (Pesach)

Passover, known as Pesach in the Hebrew language, is one of the most sacred and widely observed Jewish religious holidays. The religious holiday recognizes the Israelites departure after 400 years of slavery in ancient Egypt.

God instructed Moses to demand that the Pharaoh of Egypt releases the Hebrews. Moses requested the Pharaoh to allow them to return to Israel for a three-day religious celebration and feast. The Pharaoh refused and thus God delivered 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, each one worse than the previous. The final plague: the slaying of the firstborn son of every Egyptian household. Moses instructed the Jews to mark their doorways with lamb’s blood so that God would “pass over” their home during the plague. This is where the holiday is believed to have received its name: Passover.

The Pharaoh released the Israelites to return to their homes and offered them anything to make their journey a success. But the Hebrews feared the Pharaoh would change his mind thus they left in great haste, not taking the time for the bread to ‘leaven.’ This is the reason for unleavened bread to hold such an instrumental role in the rituals and ceremonious meals during the observance of the Passover festival today.

As it turns out, the Pharaoh did change his mind and gathered his army to chase after the Hebrews. When the Hebrews reached the Red Sea after 40 days and nights, they prayed to God to save them and pleaded with Moses to help. That night Moses used his staff and parted the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to return home. As the Egyptians approached the sea, its waters fell in again and they drowned.

Observance of Passover is highly regarded and very ritualistic amongst Jews. It is a festival that lasts 7 or 8 days, depending upon ones specific to Jewish faith. It is one of the three most holiest of religious holidays within the Jewish religion and as such there is even a book that outlines with great detail how each meal shall be prepared, how the table shall be set, and which dishware and lines shall be used. It even dictates what you should wear during the meals of Passover, which shoes to wear and, reverently, how quickly the meal should be eaten. Many Jews make the great pilgrimage back to the Temple at Jerusalem as a part of their celebration, and they are told to reflect on their faith and their life in honor of God’s glorious release of their people from slavery.

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