What is Passover and how is it celebrated?

Passover is a Jewish holiday, whose celebration includes purging our homes of chametz—anything containing or made from grain that has risen. Also known as Pesach, this holiday lasts for 7 days in Israel and 8 days in the Diaspora. During Passover we eat matzah, flatbreads that are deliberately baked so quickly that the dough has no time to rise.

Read: What Is Passover?

What are the most important days of Passover?

Each day of Passover is important, and we do not eat chametz for the duration of the holiday.

The first two days, however, along with the final two days (with each “day” beginning the evening prior) are observed as yom tov, when “work” is forbidden and technology is eschewed, almost like on Shabbat.

On the first two nights of Passover (just the first night in Israel), we hold a Seder, a festive meal, during which we follow a program known as the Haggadah, eat mazah and maror (bitter herbs), drink four cups of wine (or grape juice), and retell the events of the Exodus.

Read: Passover Calendar for This Year

What happened during Passover?

The first night of Passover is the anniversary of the Exodus, when the nation of Israel (today known as the Jewish people) left Egyptian slavery. They were led by Moses, who had been chosen by G‑d to bring 10 plagues upon Egypt, forcing Pharaoh to free the Israelites.

On Passover eve, the Jewish people sheltered in their homes, eating the Passover sacrifice—a roasted kid (goat) or lamb—together with matzah and bitter herbs.

That night, at midnight, G‑d brought the 10th plague, death of the firstborns, and Pharaoh finally agreed to release the People of Israel.

Read: The Full Passover Story

What is Passover in the Bible?

In the Book of Exodus we read the story of Moses leading the people out of Egypt, and how G‑d commanded that Passover be observed every year from then on by eating the Passover lamb together with matzah and maror (bitter herbs).

In the latter books of the Bible, we read how Passover was celebrated in the days of Joshua, King Solomon, King Hezekiah, King Josiah, and again under Ezra and Nehemia.

The Passover celebrations continued throughout the Second Temple era, until the Temple was destroyed by the Romans after more than 400 years.

These days, Passover Seders conclude with participants calling out “Next year in Jerusalem!” with heartfelt prayers that the Temple be rebuilt so the Passover sacrifice can be brought once again.

Read: Passover in the Bible

When is the first Seder in 2024?

The first night of Passover is April 22.

The second night of Passover, on which Jews in the Diaspora also hold a Seder, is April 23, after nightfall.

What day is the Passover meal eaten?

The Passover meal is eaten on the first night of Passover, and again on the second night in the Diaspora (outside of Israel). See above for when that is.

Read: Passover Calendar for This Year

What’s the point of Passover and why is it important?

Passover is the first of the annual festivals that G‑d gave the Jewish people, together with Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and the weekly holiday of Shabbat. It is unique in that G‑d commanded it even before the people had left Egypt. Even while they were technically under Egyptian bondage, G‑d told them (through Moses) to celebrate Passover on a yearly basis, remembering His kindness in freeing them from Egypt to become His special people, ambassadors of goodness and morality on earth.

Read: What Is a Jew?

What is the Passover story?

The Passover story, as recounted every year at the Seder, tells how the people of Israel were suffering in Egypt where they had been tricked by Pharaoh into becoming slaves. G‑d “heard their cries” and sent Moses to free them.

Pharaoh initially refused, but after suffering through 10 plagues (starting with blood in the Nile and ending with the death of every Egyptian firstborn), on Passover eve, Pharaoh begged the people to leave.

One week later, as the people camped at the banks of the Red Sea, Pharaoh had a change of heart and chased after his erstwhile slaves. A miracle happened and the sea split, allowing the Israelites to trek to safety, drowning their Egyptian pursuers.

Read: The Parting of the Sea

Fifty days later, as the people stood around Mount Sinai, G‑d established His covenant with them, taking them as His chosen nation.

Read: The Full Passover Story

What is Passover food?

The most important element of Passover food is what it does not contain: chametz—anything containing or made from grain that has fermented or risen. This chametz-free food is referred to as kosher for Passover.

Browse: hundreds of kosher-for-Passover recipes

On Passover eve, it is a mitzvah to eat matzah, flat unleavened “breads,” which remind us of the humble food our ancestors ate during their Egyptian slavery, as well as how their bread had no time to rise before baking as they hastily marched out of Egypt.

At the Passover table, the matzah is placed on the Seder plate, along with five other symbolic foods: bitter herbs (romaine lettuce and/or horseradish, which recall the bitterness of slavery), charoset (a paste that reminds us of the mortar used by the slaves on Egyptian building projects), as well as an egg and roastedshank/chicken neck (each of which symbolizes one of the sacrificial animals our ancestors would have enjoyed during this meal in Temple times).

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Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

Today the two terms (Chag HaPesach and Chag HaMatzot in Hebrew) are used interchangeably. Technically speaking, however, Passover (Pesach) refers to the animal that was sacrificed and eaten on the first night of the holiday, thus named because G‑d “passed over” (“pasach”) the Israelite homes while bringing death to the Egyptian firstborns on the very first Passover eve in Egypt. Conversely, Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot) is the name of the entire seven (or eight) day holiday.

Happy Passover from your friends @ Chabad.org!