1. The festival of Passover (Pesah, in Hebrew) begins on Friday night, 3/30/18. It celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. The overall theme is freedom, both political, and, by extension, psychological. In Reform Judaism it is observed for 7 days, whereas Orthodox and Conservative Jews keep it for 8. It is basically a home-centered festival, marked by special foods and through an elaborate ritualized meal conducted on the first night (in Reform) called Seder (meaning, “order”). In particular, instead of eating regular bread, it is customary to eat an unleavened bread called MATZAH.
2. Jewish sources, both Biblical and Rabbinic, have preserved an “oral tradition,” later written down, about the escape from the slavery in Egypt. This may have been historically correct for a small group of Hebrews. According to Prof. R.E Friedman, only the Levites were part of the Exodus (later on they became the priests); however, there is no archaeological corroboration for it. Also, most scholars say that the crossing probably took place at a swamp; no miraculous parting of the sea.
3. In the Bible, Passover appears as a combination of two different festivals: HAG HA-PESAH, a pastoral feast characterized by the slaughter and consumption of the paschal lamb, and HAG HA-MAZOT, the feast of unleavened bread, an agricultural festival marking the beginning of the grain harvest. Both were at some point historicized.
4. There are some important differences between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews with regard to the foods consumed during this festival. The first abstain from eating legumes, such as rice, corn and beans, whereas the second do not.
HAG SAMEAH –Happy Passover!