What is Passover?
By Melissa Brodsky
Passover, or Pesach, is the major Jewish holiday that falls in the spring. The holiday commemorates the Jews’ exodus from Egypt that led them to the land of Israel 3,000 years ago. The holiday is observed and celebrated in Jewish homes all over the world in the form of a Seder which contains songs, prayer and stories of the events of the exodus.
A few symbolic foods are included in Passover Seder:
- Wine. There are four cups of wine during a Passover Seder, symbolizing redemption from God. They represent the promise to be led out of Egypt by God; to be delivered from slavery by Egypt; to demonstrate God’s power; and the promise of a Holy Land for the Jewish people.
- Matzoh. In Hebrew, matzoh means “unleavened bread.” It symbolizes affliction and slavery for the Jews. When the Jews fled from Egypt, they didn’t have time to collect all the ingredients needed to make bread rise. In most Seders, three sheets of matzoh are used with the center piece being the Afikomen.
- Maror. Traditionally shown as horseradish, the maror signifies the bitterness of slavery.
- Charoset. A paste made of fruit and nuts, this represents the mortar the Jews used when they were setting bricks during their enslavement. Charoset is easy to make with apples and nuts.
- Salt water. Used to remember bitter times, pieces of food are dipped into salt water to commemorate the tears shed.
- Karpas. A green vegetable that signifies spring, it also represents the endurance of slavery and is a symbol of hope. Parsley is often used.
- Hard-boiled egg. Eggs are symbolic of the circle of life, and also represent spring.
- Roasted shank bone. This symbolizes God’s outstretched arm that helped the Jews in their times of trouble.
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