Passover is an important Jewish festival commemorating the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and their safe flight across the Red Sea. This flight, described in the Book of Exodus, was led by Moses.
- \\ The name of the festival (Hebrew pesah, "passing over" or "protection") is derived from the instructions given to Moses by God (see Exodus 12:3-17). In order to encourage the Egyptians to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, God intends to "smite all the first-born … both man and beast" in the land. To protect themselves, the Israelites are told to mark their dwellings with lamb's blood so that God can identify and thus pass over them.*
- \\ The celebration of the holiday begins after sundown on the 14th day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish ecclesiastical year, about the time of the vernal equinox. In accordance with rabbinic law , Jews living outside the limits of ancient Palestine celebrate the holiday for eight days and partake of a ceremonial meal, known as the Seder, on the first two nights. The Seder consists of prescribed foods, each of which symbolizes some aspect of the ordeal undergone by the Israelites during their enslavement in Egypt. For example, horseradish signifies the bitterness of the experience, and a mixture of chopped nuts and apples in wine symbolizes the building mortar used by the Israelites in their forced labor. During the Seder the narrative of the exodus is recounted and prayers of thanksgiving are offered up to God for his loving protection. The readings, songs, and prayers of the Seder are contained in the Haggada, copies of which are available for all at the table. Jews living within the limits of ancient Palestine celebrate Passover for seven days, conducting a Seder only on the first night.*
- \\ Throughout the holiday the Orthodox Jew must abstain from eating leavened bread, substituting unleavened bread, usually in the form of matzoth. These matzoth recall the unleavened bread eaten by the Israelites during their flight because they had no time to prepare raised bread. Orthodox Jewish tradition prescribes that, during Passover, meals be prepared and served using sets of utensils and dishes reserved strictly for that festival.*