At Robin’s Nest Tutoring, our Article Writing Team will be starting a monthly series detailing holidays celebrated among our culturally and regionally diverse student and tutoring body. It is important to us that all religions, holidays, and cultures are represented and shared, and we would love to have a part in sharing them with you. For this first installment, we will be looking at the Jewish holiday of Passover!
Starting at sundown on March 27th and lasting for one week, Jews all over the world will begin to celebrate the holiday of Passover, which commemorates the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.
The Story of Passover
For generations, Jews were enslaved in Egypt by the Pharaoh, and faced great cruelty. One Jew, Moses, grew tired of seeing his people mistreated, and gave the Pharaoh an ultimatum: let all of the Jews go free or face the wrath of God. Pharaoh refused.
True to Moses’ word, a series of ten plagues struck the Egyptians. The first five plagues resulted in the Nile River turning to blood, an infestation of frogs, waves of lice and gnats, and unleashed wild animals and flies capable of hurting humans and livestock.
After this last plague, Pharaoh promised to let the Israelites go as long as the plagues stopped. He did not keep his word, however, and instead punished the Jews even further. As a result, five more plagues followed: Egyptians broke into boils, thunderstorms came with unimaginable amounts of hail, locusts swarmed, three days of darkness came, and finally, all firstborn sons (extending to animals) died. Moses was told to warn all the Jews of Egypt to smear lamb’s blood on their door frame so that the Angel of Death would know not to enter that house. This physical ‘passing over’ of the Jew’s houses is where the holiday gets its name. After this tenth and final plague, the Pharaoh told all of the Jews to leave.
Eager to leave before the Pharaoh changed his mind, the Israelites gathered all the food they could carry, and didn’t even allow their bread to rise. It is for this reason that on Passover, Jews do not eat any leavened bread (bread that has been allowed to rise). In fact, Jews do not eat any food containing any of the five ancient grains- wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt. Instead, Jews eat a flat, cracker-like bread known as Matzah (the featured image on this post shows an example of Matzah.)
Traditions of Passover
In addition to eating Matzah, there are many other traditions for Passover. To mark the celebration of this holiday, there is typically an event called a Seder. At the Seder, there are several foods that Jews eat, each symbolizing a different aspect of the suffering Jews faced in Egypt.
- Bitter herbs (typically horseradish) -This symbolizes the bitterness and harshness of the slavery.
- Charoset (a sweet paste of fruits, and nuts) – This symbolizes the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt.
- Karpas (usually parsley) which is dipped into a bowl of salt water- This represents the tears of Jewish slaves shed during hardship
- A hard boiled egg and bone of an animal – These represent sacrifices made at the Temple in Jerusalem
Passover is a holiday with sad roots, but is also meant to be uplifting, as it commemorates Jews’ freedom from tyranny. Many Jews look forward to Passover as it is a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate their shared roots and culture.
This article was written by Nathaniel Nokken. Nathaniel is a junior at Lubbock High School. In addition to tutoring, he is an active member in the band, involved in UIL competitions, and is a Research Assistant at the Texas Tech Peace, War & Social Conflict Lab.
This article was edited by Ruby Barenberg. Ruby is a current sophomore at Lubbock High School where, outside of volunteering for Robin’s Nest Tutoring, she participates in academic decathlon, math and science UIL, and Model UN. She also runs a book blog.