Passover is one of the most sacred holidays celebrated by the Jewish people, and with good reason! Because the holiday memorializes Israel’s freedom from slavery in Egypt, it is a joyous reminder that God cares about the oppressed! However, it is also a solemn challenge to anyone with power or influence. Passover let’s us know that God calls people to account for their actions. We’d best treat others well if we don’t want to learn the lesson of Pharaoh!
Passover lasts for seven days (eight, if outside of Israel) and involves many traditions, including the removal of all leaven bread from the house. The first night of the holiday (or two nights, if outside of Israel) focuses on a special family meal called The Seder. The command to celebrate this meal comes from the Hebrew Scriptures in Exodus 12. Here is a short clip from the story:
Remember this day and celebrate it each year as a festival in my honor. For seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. And on the first of these seven days, you must remove all yeast from your homes. If you eat anything made with yeast during this festival, you will no longer be part of Israel. Meet together for worship on the first and seventh days of the festival. The only work you are allowed to do on either of these two days is that of preparing the bread.
Celebrate this Festival of Thin Bread as a way of remembering the day that I brought your families and tribes out of Egypt. And do this each year. Begin on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month by eating bread made without yeast. Then continue this celebration until the evening of the twenty-first day. During these seven days no yeast is allowed in anyone’s home, whether they are native Israelites or not. If you are caught eating anything made with yeast, you will no longer be part of Israel. Stay away from yeast, no matter where you live. No one is allowed to eat anything made with yeast!
Moses called the leaders of Israel together and said: Each family is to pick out a sheep and kill it for Passover. Make a brush from a few small branches of a hyssop plant and dip the brush in the bowl that has the blood of the animal in it. Then brush some of the blood above the door and on the posts at each side of the door of your house. After this, everyone is to stay inside. During that night the L-rd will go through the country of Egypt and kill the first-born son in every Egyptian family. He will see where you have put the blood, and he will not come into your house. His angel that brings death will pass over and not kill your first-born sons.
After you have entered the country promised to you by the L-rd, you and your children must continue to celebrate Passover each year. Your children will ask you, “What are we celebrating?” And you will answer, “The Passover animal is killed to honor the L-rd. We do these things because on that night long ago the L-rd passed over the homes of our people in Egypt. He killed the first-born sons of the Egyptians, but he saved our children from death.
Here’s an extremely fun look at the story of Passover.
For a deeper understanding of Passover, watch this History Channel video. (It’s extremely well done.)