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The History of Passover

Passover is one of the most important and widely celebrated Jewish holidays. Commemorating the Israelites' exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt, Passover is steeped in thousands of years of history and tradition.

The story of Passover is recounted in the Book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible. According to the text, the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians for generations. God instructed the prophet Moses to demand that the Egyptian Pharaoh free the Israelites. When the Pharaoh refused, God inflicted 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, the final of which was the killing of all the firstborn sons.

The Israelites were instructed to mark their doorposts with the blood of a slaughtered lamb so that the Angel of Death would "pass over" their homes. After this final plague, the Pharaoh relented and allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt. This event, known as the Exodus, is the pivotal moment commemorated during the Passover holiday.

Passover is celebrated for seven or eight days, beginning on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nisan, which usually falls in March or April on the Gregorian calendar. The centerpiece of the holiday is the Seder, a ritual feast held on the first one or two nights. During the Seder, the story of the Exodus is retold through prayer, the drinking of four cups of wine, the eating of symbolic foods, and the asking of questions.

Some of the most recognizable Passover traditions include refraining from eating leavened bread and eating matzah, a flat, unleavened cracker, instead. Other traditional foods include bitter herbs, representing the bitterness of slavery, and charoset, a sweet paste made of fruits, nuts, wine, and spices, representing the mortar used by the Israelite slaves.

Passover has been celebrated by Jews for over 3,000 years, making it one of the oldest continuously observed religious holidays in the world. Its themes of liberation, redemption, and hope continue to resonate with Jews and non-Jews alike. The Passover story reminds us all of the importance of freedom and the human capacity to overcome even the most daunting oppression.

Louisa Mastromarino is a Licensed Spiritual Health coach and certified counselor educator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications, a Master of Science Degree in School Counseling, and a post master’s degree in Supervision and Educational Leadership.  Louisa is the author of Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to Washington, D.C., Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to New York City, Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Brizzley Bear Loves Poetry and additional publications.  

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