Passover is the best known of all the Jewish holidays. Passover begins at the fifteenth day of the month of Nissan and lasts for eight days. This day commemorates the departure of the nation of Israel from Egypt.
The name 'Passover' refers to the fact that G-d passed over the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt. In Hebrew, it is known as Pesach which is based on the Hebrew root meaning 'pass over'. The holiday is also referred to as Chag he-Aviv, the Spring Festival, Chag ha-Matzoth meaning the Festival of Matzahs), and Zeman Herutenu, the Time of Our Freedom.
In Israel, Passover lasts for seven days with the first and last days being major holidays. In Orthodox and Conservative communities, no work is performed on those days, with most of rules relating to the observances of Shabbat being applied. A seder is held on the first day.
Passover is celebrated in two ways, the first two days and last two days commemorate the splitting of the Red Sea and are observed as full-fledged holidays. Holiday candles are lit at night and Kiddush and sumptuous holiday meals are enjoyed on both nights and days. People don't go for work or drive,don't write or switch on or off electric devices. But they are permitted to cook and to carry outdoors and the in-between four days are called Chol Hamoed, semi-festive 'intermediate days' when most forms of work are permitted.
The main attraction of Passover is the two 'Seders' observed on the first two nights of the holiday. The Seder is a fifteen step, family oriented, tradition and ritual packed feast.
The main observations of the Seder are eating matzah, bitter herbs which are mainly to commemorate the bitter slavery endured by the Israelite.People drink four cups of wine or grape juice, a royal drink to celebrate the newfound freedom. The recitation of the Haggadah, a liturgy is also a common tradition which describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is the fulfillment of the biblical obligation to recount to the children the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover.
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