According to the Bible, Passover is a Jewish festival that commemorates the events of the Book of Exodus. In ancient Egypt, Pharaohs enslaved the Children of Israel, prompting the ten plagues of Egypt. God cast down his spirit to Earth to help Israelites escape slavery by inflicting the Egyptians with ten plagues, of which the final was death of the first-born son.
Marking their doors with lamb’s blood, Israelites signaled the Lord’s spirit to pass over these homes. After their freedom was granted by the Pharaoh, the Israelites began their exodus from Egypt under the guidance of Moses.
Passover follows the Hebrew calendar, and occurs on the 15th day of Nisan, and lasts for seven to eight days. In the Gregorian calendar, Passover typically falls mid-March to April and is a spring festival. It is one of the most observed Jewish holidays, and sparks a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, where men can worship publicly. The first and last days of Passover are legal holidays in Israel, granting Jewish workers a day off. Customarily Passover involves special prayer sessions and meals.
In Israel, Passover is known as the Feat of Unleavened Bread, as it is said that the free Israelites left Egypt so quickly, they didn’t have time to allow the bread to rise. Within the duration of Passover, no leavened bread is eaten, therefore Matzo, a flat bread, has become a popular symbol for the holiday. Matzo was light and easy to transport on their long journey out of Egypt, and has since become an important part of Passover celebrations.
The Torah declares that no chametz, the Hebrew word for leaven, be consumed during the time of Passover, which prompted the tradition of formally removing any leaven from the house. On the morning of the day before Passover, any remaining leavened bread is required to be burned by the head of the household as a method for cleansing the house of the unholy substance.
Modern customs have allowed for the sale of chametz, rather than destruction, especially in cases involving alcohol distilled form wheat. During Passover observances, it is viable to seal cabinets that contain chametz shut with adhesive tape, so no entrance is granted.
It is customary for Jewish households to own separate dinnerware specifically for Passover, as they have never been contaminated with chametz, and ovens and cookware are thoroughly cleaned before making Passover meals.
The process of baking matzo is extremely labor intensive, and requires adequate cleaning between batches to be sure no dough has had the opportunity to sit long enough to be contaminated with chametz. Men typically gather to make the bread from special wheat that is harvested and kept separate for Passover.
The first morning of Passover, first born sons are expected to fast in memoriam of their past. Most synagogues hold a special ceremony after the morning prayers, which marks a section of Torah learning, and following the ceremony. A special meal relinquishes the first born of his fast.
Rumor Has It …
… that during Passover, inmates in Kansas are all sent to Unleavenworth Prison which is deflated into a 2-dimensional object and passed over by Blackhawk security helicopters.