Passover this year will be celebrated April 10-18 in the United States and throughout the world.
The first Seder is April 10 after nightfall, and the second Seder is April 11 after nightfall. Passover is celebrated by eating matzah (unleaven bread) and maror (bitter herbs). For the duration of the eight (or seven days in Israel) of Passover, chametz (leaven) is strictly avoided.
What Is Passover?
The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan, April 10-18, 2017.
It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is observed by avoiding leaven, and highlighted by the Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.
In Hebrew it is known as Pesach (which means “to pass over”), because G‑d passed over the Jewish homes when killing the Egyptian firstborn on the very first Passover eve.
The Passover Story in a Nutshell
After many decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, during which time the Israelites were subjected to backbreaking labor and unbearable horrors, G‑d saw the people’s distress and sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message: “Send forth My people, so that they may serve Me.”
But despite numerous warnings, Pharaoh refused to heed G‑d’s command. G‑d then sent upon Egypt 10 devastating plagues, afflicting them and destroying everything from their livestock to their crops.
At the stroke of midnight of 15 Nissan in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), G‑d visited the last of the 10 plagues on the Egyptians, killing all their firstborns. While doing so, G‑d spared the children of Israel, “passing over” their homes—hence the name of the holiday.
Pharaoh’s resistance was broken, and he virtually chased his former slaves out of the land. The Israelites left in such a hurry, in fact, that the bread they baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise. Six hundred thousand adult males, plus many more women and children, left Egypt on that day and began the trek to Mount Sinai and their birth as G‑d’s chosen people.
In ancient times the Passover observance included the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, which was roasted and eaten at the Seder on the first night of the holiday.
This was the case until Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the 1st century.