Ten Important Passover Facts
- Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is the oldest continuously celebrated Jewish festival.
- The rabbis developed the ritual of the seder based on passages from the Torah. The Torah is made up of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. For Jews, the Torah is the most holy of all the Biblical writings.
- The Hebrew word seder means order. The seder is traditionally celebrated in the home, although community seders are also popular.
- The Haggadah is a book that contains the entire service used for the Passover seder. The central message for Jews in the Haggadah is that God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. In the Haggadah, the name of Moses is mentioned only once, in order to prevent Moses from becoming idolized.
- The Hebrew word for Egypt is mitz-rah-yim. When Jews talk about being enslaved in mitzrahyim, they mean not only in Egypt but also in all the times and places where Jews were not free to practice their religion.
- On every seder table there is is a symbolic fifth cup of wine called the Cup for Elijah. There is a teaching that the Prophet Elijah will answer Jewish legal questions that the ancient rabbis could not resolve. One of these questions was whether we drink four or five cups of wine or grape juice at the seder. We hope that Elijah will visit us on the night of the seder. If that happens, Elijah will tell us whether we should drink froui or five cups. Elijah will also be able to drink the cup that is set aside for him.
- Three pieces of matzah are placed in the middle of the table. They represent the three classes of Jewish people in ancient times: the Kohens the priestly class responsible for the administration of the Temple sacrifices, the Levites the priestly class responsible for the actual performance of the Temple sacrifices, and the Israelites all other Jews.
- The Afikomen is the last piece of food eaten at the seder. The word afikomen is the Hebrew form of the Greek word epikomion, which means dessert. It is a tradition to hide the afikomen, and for the children to find and negotiate for its return. The seder cannot be concluded until the afikomen is redeemed.
- One of the most important concepts of the seder is that each person gain a personal understanding of the original exodus experience.
- The exodus from Egypt is such an important event in Jewish history that it is mentioned in specific prayers each day.