Pesach or Passover
Jewish festival commemorating the liberation of the Children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses.
According to the Book of Exodus, God sent 10 plagues to afflict the Egyptians in order to force them to release the Children of Israel, who had been held as slaves in Egypt for 210 years. For the final plague an Avenging Angel killed all the first-born sons of the Egyptians. The Egyptians were so terrified by this that Pharoah ordered Moses to take his people out of the country straight away.
Following God’s instructions, the Israelites had marked their doorways with the blood of a slaughtered lamb, as a sign that the Angel should pass over this house and not kill the first-born.
According to tradition, when the Israelites left Egypt they did not have time to let the dough rise for their bread, and so took unleavened dough with them. Matzo, a type of unleavened bread, is thus a major symbol of this festival. Also, before Passover celebrations can begin, Jews must clear the house of all chametz (‘leaven’) including bread risen with yeast.
During the first two nights of Passover a special meal is held called a Seder (‘order’) where specific items of food and drink are consumed in a specific order. These include matzo, bitter herbs (to mark the bitterness of slavery), a lamb bone (representing sacrifice) and salt water (representing slaves’ tears). The symbolism of this meal is discussed, with a particular emphasis on children learning the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt.
Find out more about Pesach / Passover from the following websites:
- BBC – Religions – Judaism: Passover
- BBC – Learning Zone Class Clips – The Passover Story
- BBC – Learning Zone Class Clips – Pesach (Passover)
- Judaism 101: Pesach – Passover
- Wikipedia – Passover
See also the following publications for schools, available from RE Today: