Passover or “Pesakh”begins at sunset today. It is an eight day celebration observed each year by the Jewish religion. It commemorates the freeing of the Israelites (biblical name for the Jews) from slavery after centuries of poverty and oppression under the reign of the cruel Egyptian, Pharaoh Ramses II.

Families celebrate Passover by having a Seder. With special foods, songs, and customs, the Seder is the focal point of the Passover celebration. Seder means order, and the passover story is read in order from a book called a Haggadah.

This wooden child size Passover teaching set includes a Seder plate, goblet, two pieces of matza, bottle of wine, prayer book Afikomen and matza covers.

Although there are a number of food-related traditions that are observed during Passover, perhaps the most important part of the celebration is the ritual retelling of the Exodus story. In the Torah’s Book of Exodus, Jews are exhorted to tell their progeny about the enslavement and escape of the ancient Israelites. The act of recounting this story in a ceremony known as Magid forms a key component of the Seder feast, and it is told from a special text known as the Haggadah. The ceremony is meant to be interactive and inclusive, and includes questions and answers, special blessings, discussions, and songs. The story is usually told in both Hebrew and the native language of the majority of the guests attending the feast, according to tradition.

Apples 4 the Teacher explains Passover:

Fearing that Jews were becoming too strong, a Pharaoh decreed that all male Jewish babies were to be killed. Jocheved and Amran, a Jewish couple, wanted to save their infant son – so they put him in a basket that floated him down the river. The infant was rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter and she raised him as her own son. She named the baby Moses, which means ” take from the water.”

When Moses grew up, he empathized with the Jewish slaves and tried to get the Pharaoh to free them. The Pharaoh refused – so there were 10 plagues sent down to Egypt: Blood, Frogs, Lice, Beasts, Cattle Disease, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness, and Slaying of the Firstborn. The name Passover comes from the Plague of Slaying the Firstborn. The Angel of Death passed over the homes of the Jews who had put lambs blood on their doors.

After the 10th plague, Pharaoh agreed to let the Jewish slaves go. They gathered up their belongings quickly, and didn’t have time for their bread to rise, so they had to bake it and take it the way it was. This is why the Jewish people eat matzah during Passover.

As the Jews were fleeing, Pharaoh changed his mind, and sent his army after the people to bring them back. Moses parted the Red Sea for the Jews to cross, and as soon as they were safely to the other side, the waters closed on the soldiers, drowning them all. The Jewish people were free.

Happy Passover!