• Passover 2019 will be celebrated from April 19 - April 27.
  • The first Seder will be on April 19 after nightfall, and the second Seder will be on April 20 after nightfall. 
  • Passover is celebrated by eating matzah (unleaven bread) and maror (bitter herbs).
  • For the duration of the 8 (or 7 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 19-27th, 2019. Passover (Pesach) commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Pesach 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. 

Passover is divided into two parts:  

The first two days and the last two days (the latter commemorating the splitting of the Red Sea) are full-fledged holidays. Holiday candles are lit at night, and kiddush and sumptuous holiday meals are enjoyed on both nights and days. We don't go to work, drive, write, or switch on or off electric devices. We are permitted to cook and to carry outdoors. 

The middle four days are called Chol Hamoed, semi-festive "intermediate days" when most forms of work are permitted. 

No Chametz

To commemorate the unleavened bread that the Israelites ate when they left Egypt, we don't eat - or even retain in our possession - any chametz from midday of the day before Passover until the conclusion of the holiday. Chametz means leavened grain - any food or drink that contains even a trace of wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or their derivatives, and which wasn't guarded from leavening or fermentation. This includes bread, cake, cookies, cereal, pasta, and most alcoholic beverages. Moreover, almost any processed food or drink can be assumed to be chametz unless certified otherwise. 

Ridding our home of chametz is an intensive process. It involves a full-out spring cleaning search-and-destroy mission during the weeks before Passover, and culminates with a ceremonial search for chametz on the night before Passover, and then a burning of the chametz ceremony on the morning before the holiday. Chametz that cannot be disposed of can be sold to a non-Jew (and bought back after the holiday). 

 

Matzah

Instead of chametz, we eat matzah - flat unleavened bread. It is a mitzvah to partake of matzah on the two Seder nights, and during the rest of the holiday is optional. It is ideal to use handmade shmurah matzah, which has been zealously guarded against moisture from the moment of harvest. 

The Seders

The highlight of Passover is the Seder, observed on each of the first two nights of the holiday. The Seder is a fifteen-step family-oriented tradition and ritual-packed feast. 

The focal points of the Seder are:

  • Eating matzah
  • Eating bitter herbs - to commemorate the bitter slavery endured by the Israelites. 
  • Drinking four cups of wine or grape juice - a royal drink to celebrate our newfound freedom. 
  • The recitation of the Haggadah, a liturgy that describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is the fulfillment of the biblical obligation to recount to our children the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover.