Passover

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The traditional unleavened bread eaten during Passover is known as matzah, matzo or matza; this is a hard, yeast-free flat bread made from flours of specific grains, including rye, wheat, spelt, oat and barley. Though matzah is known as unleavened bread, some diners will find that it has a taste and consistency that is much closer to that of a cracker than bread. Matzah is hard, crispy and crumbly rather than soft and chewy like fresh, untoasted leavened bread.

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  • How do you prepare for Passover?

    Q: How do you prepare for Passover?

    A: The exact process of preparing for Passover may depend on how strictly one observes the holiday; those who practice strict religious observance will need to clear all leavened grain products, known as chametz, from their homes and make sure kosher products are available to eat during the 7-to-8 day observance of Passover. Those who are less strict about their observance of religious holidays such as Passover may or may not remove chametz from their homes, and they may or may not choose to replace non-kosher items with appropriate kosher products. Other preparations, such as planning, shopping for and cooking dishes for the seder dinner may also depend on individual factors.
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  • How many cups of wine are shared at Passover?

    Q: How many cups of wine are shared at Passover?

    A: In the traditional Passover seder, participants will consume four cups of wine. There are several reasons for this specific number, most of which are symbolic. For example, the number four is significant in part because the words "cup of wine" are mentioned four times during a prophetic passage in the story of Exodus, which details the Jewish people's escape from Egyptian slavery.
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  • How is Passover celebrated today?

    Q: How is Passover celebrated today?

    A: Passover is commemorated through a celebration that lasts seven or eight days. During the celebration, the story of the Israelites fleeing from Egypt is told and songs are sung.
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  • What were the ten plagues of Egypt?

    Q: What were the ten plagues of Egypt?

    A: According to the Old Testament story of Exodus, the 10 plagues of Egypt were a series of punishments that God visited on the Egyptians in response to the pharaoh's refusal to free the Hebrew slaves trapped in that nation; these plagues include events such as a swarm of frogs and pestilence among the country's domestic animals. Moses, a Jewish orphan who was raised in the pharoh's home, made multiple demands for the pharaoh to "let my people go," referring to pharaoh's ability to free the Hebrew slaves. When pharaoh repeatedly denies this demand, Moses warns him of the series of plagues that God will send, but pharaoh is still unmoved.
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  • What is Haggadah?

    Q: What is Haggadah?

    A: The Haggadah is an important part of a traditional Passover seder; this text is essentially a checklist of events that are to take place during the event. The Haggadah is read in conjunction with the proceeding of the Passover seder, so the text itself is an important part of the holiday.
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  • What kind of bread do you eat on Passover?

    Q: What kind of bread do you eat on Passover?

    A: The traditional unleavened bread eaten during Passover is known as matzah, matzo or matza; this is a hard, yeast-free flat bread made from flours of specific grains, including rye, wheat, spelt, oat and barley. Though matzah is known as unleavened bread, some diners will find that it has a taste and consistency that is much closer to that of a cracker than bread. Matzah is hard, crispy and crumbly rather than soft and chewy like fresh, untoasted leavened bread.
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  • How are each of the days of Passover celebrated?

    Q: How are each of the days of Passover celebrated?

    A: Passover is typically observed over a course of 8 days (though some Jewish people observe the religious holiday for only 7 days); typically, the first and last couple of days of the Passover period are the days that are reserved for ritual observance. These rituals may include the consumption of a traditional Passover seder, which is a 15-step meal that is typically consumed in a large group of family and friends. Other rituals performed on the first and/or last two of days of Passover may include lighting of special holiday candles and the consumption of blessed wine known as kiddush.
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  • What is Miriam's cup?

    Q: What is Miriam's cup?

    A: Miriam's Cup is a relatively new Passover seder tradition in which a cup of water is set at the table for the prophetess Miriam; in the Bible, Miriam is described as Moses' sister and a leader among Jewish women. This effort can be seen as a feminist gesture toward incorporating female Bible characters into Jewish ritual, which tends to focus more on male prophets such as Moses and Elijah. More strictly religious Jewish people, particularly those who practice Orthodox Judaism, are unlikely to incorporate this new practice into their seder meals, which tend to be more dogmatically traditional.
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  • What is the purpose of each food on the Seder plate?

    Q: What is the purpose of each food on the Seder plate?

    A: A traditional Passover seder plate will include several symbolic foods that are part of the holiday ritual; these foods include a roasted lamb shank bone, three separate leafy green vegetables, a roasted egg and a salad of apples and nuts known as charoset. The three leafy green vegetables are known as karpas, maror and chazaret, which typically consist of parsley or another leafy green spring vegetable, horseradish and romaine lettuce, respectively. Maror and chazaret are known as "bitter herbs."
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  • How is the timing of Passover calculated?

    Q: How is the timing of Passover calculated?

    A: The dates of Passover are determined by the Hebrew calendar, which functions differently than the Gregorian calendar. Passover occurs on specific dates, the 15th day through the 21st day, during the month of Nisan, which is part of the 12 standard months that make up the Hebrew calendar.
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  • What is chazeret?

    Q: What is chazeret?

    A: On a Passover seder plate, chazeret is one of the two bitter herbs meant to symbolize the bitter harshness of slavery, which Jewish people experienced in Egypt prior to their escape. Passover's main focus is a remembrance of this escape, and the bitter herbs are part of the heavy symbolism of the food that is consumed at this event.
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  • What is Seder?

    Q: What is Seder?

    A: Seders are one of the main focal events of the Passover holiday observance; this is an elaborate ritualistic meal that includes the recitation of certain religious texts and the consumption of symbolic foods, which is a way for Jewish people and their friends to memorialize the events depicted in the Old Testament story of Exodus. The word "seder" literally translates to "order," and while this is a celebratory event that involves eating, the process of conducting a traditional seder requires certain steps be taken, which include kiddush, or blessing a cup of wine, and eating an appetizer known as karpas.
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  • What do you eat during Passover?

    Q: What do you eat during Passover?

    A: During Passover only unleavened bread (matzah) is allowed, but foods containing barley, corn, wheat, spelt and rye are strictly prohibited during the celebration. These grains are used to make leavened bread, which is prohibited during Passover.
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  • What is the fast of the firstborn?

    Q: What is the fast of the firstborn?

    A: The Fast of the Firstborn is part of the Jewish celebration of Passover. This part of the holiday commemorates the fact that none of the Jewish families in Egypt were affected by the tenth and final plague God visited upon Egypt. In this plague, all of the firstborn male sons from each Egyptian family were killed.
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  • Q: How long is Passover?

    A: Originally, Passover was set to last seven days. It begins late in March and extends to early April.
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  • What songs are sung during Passover?

    Q: What songs are sung during Passover?

    A: Traditional Passover songs include Kadesh Urchatz, which is a song that comprises a list of the steps involved in the full ceremonial seder, and Ma Nishtana, which is known as the four questions. The four questions are traditionally asked/sung by the youngest person at the seder table.
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  • Q: What is a traditional Passover greeting?

    A: A traditional Passover greeting in the Hebrew language is “Chag sameach,” which means “joyous festival.” Other appropriate Passover greetings include “Happy Pesach” and “Happy Passover.” "Gut Yontiff," meaning "good holiday," can be used as a greeting for Passover or any holiday.
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  • How is Moses important to Passover?

    Q: How is Moses important to Passover?

    A: Moses is arguably the most important human figure in Judaism, and, as a prophet, Moses helped lead the enslaved Jewish people in Egypt to their liberation; the story of this escape to freedom is told in the Old Testament book of Exodus and is the main focus of the Passover celebration. Second only to God in importance during the Passover celebration, Moses is seen as a liberator and leader who was able to help carry out God's will on Earth and free the enslaved Hebrew people in Egypt, in spite of the fact that the pharaoh did not want to let these slaves go. Moses' story is complex, and though he is ethnically Jewish, he was adopted as an orphan by the pharaoh's household.
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  • Why is Elijah the prophet invited to Seder?

    Q: Why is Elijah the prophet invited to Seder?

    A: Elijah, a biblical prophet, has special significance in several Jewish religious rituals, including both circumcisions and Passover seders; Elijah's invitation to attend seders is related to this special significance. According to Chabad.org, Elijah is invited to attend Passover seders because he has the unique ability to confirm that the men in attendance are circumcised, meaning they are fit to partake of the Passover ritual.
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  • When is Passover?

    Q: When is Passover?

    A: Passover is a celebration of the emancipation of the Israelites from being enslaved in ancient Egypt. It is an eight-day celebration from the 15th to the 22nd of the Hebrew month Nissan.
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  • Q: What is urchatz?

    A: Urchatz is an official step in the process of a traditional Passover seder; this step focuses on cleansing prior to consuming food. Rather than being a purely symbolic or spiritual cleanse, though, this is a step that focuses on the literal washing of the hands.
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