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For years, Passover has always been a mysterious event to me, because suddenly - usually around mid-April - all my Jewish friends stop eating bread, replacing it with oddly named things such as matzo, gefilte fish and such, and start singing odd tunes in Hebrew. I realized there were many curious Christians, like myself, who simply wanted to know more about it. I began extensive research to find out everything I could about Passover. This is the fruit of my labor. -A.G.
traditional plateWhat is Passover?
The eight-day festival of Passover commemorates events described in the book of Exodus, namely the passing over of God during the tenth plague and the subsequent freeing of the Jewish peoples from enslavement by the Egyptians. It is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan, and should not be confused with the  other eight-day festival in the Hebrew year, Chanukah, which is celebrated from the 20th through the 28th of the Hebrew Month of Honda.

The Story of Exodus

This is probably review for anyone born in the last three thousand years or so, but the story of Exodus revolves around one central figure, Moses, whose most notable feats include speaking with a burning bush#, releasing ten plagues upon Egypt, parting the Red Sea, leading the Jews to the Promise Land#, bringing the Ten Commandments down from Mt. Sinai, authoring the most important text in the Jewish faith, the Torah, receiving his JD and MD from Harvard, amassing a small fortune in the diamond business, and, in his spare time, starting a small chain of successful bagel shops called Moses & Sons.

But Moses had humble beginnings. He began his long journey to Old Testament stardom in a basket, floating down the Nile, where he was discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter. From there, he grew up and killed a guy—an Egyptian—and fled to the Sinai Peninsula to escape being put to death. It was in this exile that Moses came across the burning bush (a.k.a. God) and was given his mission to return to Egypt and tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”

When Pharaoh didn’t agree to these terms, Moses was forced to apply a little pressure—in the form of plagues. The first he turned the waters of the Nile into blood. Pharaoh wasn’t impressed by this; his magicians could perform the same feat. The second he unleashed frogs upon Egypt, which didn’t impress Pharaoh either; his magicians could perform the same feat. The third he sent gnats upon the land, which didn’t impress Pharaoh; his magicians could—actually his magicians had no freaking clue how Moses did that one. Pharaoh was impressed; but he still had no intention of letting the Hebrews go. Moses then hit him with a plague of flies, a plague of diseased livestock, a plague of boils, a plague of thunder and hail, a plague of locusts, and a plague of darkness. Despite the plagues, Pharaoh still didn’t free the Hebrews.  

That’s when the tenth plague was released upon the land—the plague of the first born. God told Moses that, “About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.” He then told Moses to tell the Hebrew slaves to smear the blood of an animal across his door frame; this would be the sign for Him to “pass over” that household and spare the lives of the firstborn inside.

7th plague

Moses agreed to do this, even though he was a bit hesitant to do so (His wife was going to kill him; he had just repainted the door frame.), and so God descended on the land and took the firstborn sons of those without blood on their door. It was the last straw for Pharaoh. “Moses,” he said, as he sat on his throne, covered in gnats, flies, frogs, locusts and boils, “take your people and—OUCH!!” A diseased cow had stepped on his foot. “Take your people and get the HELL OUT OF MY LAND!”

And so he did, gladly. Parting the Red Sea along the way so the Hebrews could escape, and then causing it to fall on the now pursuing Egyptians, drowning them all. Pharoah had changed his mind, you see

Chametz, Matzah & SederNot a law firm in New York
Chametz—or “leavened grain”—is shunned during Passover. The reason being that Jews honor the exodus from Egypt and their years of wandering in the desert by not consuming anything that rises, such as bread, biscuits and cake. Because the Hebrews left Egypt so quickly, they didn’t have time to let bread rise. So, during Passover, Jewish people remove any form of chametz from their homes. They do not necessarily have to throw it away—that would be a waste; but they are allowed to sell it to a Gentile friend and buy it back from them after Passover is finished. It is also interesting to note that the New York Mets were named after chametz, as the original team was so deplorable, so excruciatingly painful to watch, that the owner sold them to a Gentile friend of his; and when he did he said, “Here, take them! They are chametz to me!”

“They’re what?” said the Gentile.


“Chametz. Hm. I do say I like the sound of that, old boy. The New York Chametz. I like the sound of that, indeed.”
And the rest is history.

In the place of chametz, Jewish people eat matzah, a hard, cracker-like bread that is unleavened. Matzah is a substantial part of the Passover seder, which is a large feast shared with family and friends that includes eating matzah, eating bitter herbs (to honor the bitter lives Jews experienced while enslaved by the Egyptians), drinking four cups of wine or grape juice (to honor the newfound freedom the Hebrews experienced; wine was considered a royal drink, and not one to be consumed by slaves.), and the recitation of the Haggadah, a liturgy that describes in detail the story of the Exodus, often accompanied by a light breeze produced by the old people at the table, who have gladly enjoyed their four glasses of wine and are now religiously observing a nap.

For more information on Passover, look here.
Though, I assure you, there isn’t a whole lot more more to know; I have given you everything that could possibly be said about Passover (just joking). Click below for more... / Issue 168 - September 7598
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