Passover (Pesach)

About the Jewish Holiday of Passover

Seder plate
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Passover is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays and commemorates the biblical story of Exodus, when Hebrew slaves were released from bondage in Egypt. Called "pesach" (pay-sak) in Hebrew, Passover is a celebration of freedom. You can learn more about the Passover narrative in: What Is the Passover Story?

Passover is celebrated for seven days in Israel and for eight days in the Diaspora (outside of Israel).

The reason for this difference has to do with the way the ancient calendar worked. For a detailed explanation, check out: Passover Observance in Israel and the Diaspora - Seven Days or Eight?

The Passover Seder

Every year, Jews are commanded to retell the Passover story. This usually takes place during the Passover Seder, which is a service held at home as part of the Passover celebration. It is always observed on the first night of Passover, and in some homes on the second night as well. On both nights, the seder concludes with a dinner. Learn more about the Passover seder in: What Is a Seder? If you would like to know more about the meaning behind the items on the seder plate, check out: The Meaning of Items on the Seder Plate

Kosher for Passover?

Passover is a holiday that has certain dietary restrictions associated with it. The biggest one has to do with eating unleavened bread, called matzah.

This custom comes from the part of the Passover story that says the Hebrew slaves fled Egypt so quickly that their bread didn't have time to rise. Matzah is a kind of bread that is made without yeast and not allowed to rise, so eating it in remembrance of this part of the story is a way to bring some of the Passover narrative to life.

In addition to eating matzah, Jews avoid any leavened bread during the week of Passover. They also avoid eating any food products containing wheat, barley, rye, spelt, or oats if they have leavening. According to tradition, these grains naturally rise if they are not cooked in 18 minutes and are called "chametz" during Passover. In the Ashkenazi tradition corn, rice, millet and legumes are also on the no-no list. Because things like corn syrup and cornstarch can be found in unexpected places, the easiest way to avoid inadvertently violating the rules of kashrut during Passover is to only use food products that are specifically labeled "Kosher for Passover." Learn more about Passover food in: What is Kosher for Passover?