Springtime always seems to denote two major religious holidays in the U.S.: Easter and Passover. It’s around this time that shoppers will see both chocolate eggs and matzo simultaneously appear at their local grocery store. While, at this point in the history of mankind, the two celebrations are observed by separate religions, there is actually a very strong historical connection. In fact, it was the First Council of Nicaea – a group of Christian authoritarians – around 325 A.D., who deliberately placed the observance of Easter around the same timeline as the pre-existing Jewish holiday Passover (both holidays correlate with lunar cycles). This is because the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, allegedly a Jewish rabbi, was believed to have happened around the time of the long-standing Jewish tradition. However, while the celebration of Passover dates back thousands of years, there still seems to be confusion as to when it takes place, exactly. So, when is Passover 2014 and what, specifically, is it’s meaning?
Passover is traditionally observed by the Jewish religion for about 8 days. This year, it takes place between sundown of Monday, April 14 and the evening of Tuesday, April 22. However, this is opposed to last year’s timeline of March 25 to April 2. Due to the Hebrew calendar, which follows lunar and solar cycles, Passover will occur on different dates each year. Although, the Hebrew calendar consistently places the holiday between the 15th and 22nd day of the month of Nissan. While Passover lasts for 8 days, the essence of it’s origin can be gleaned from the Jewish Seders that occur on the first two nights.
This year, 2014, the first Passover Seder will commence when the sun sets on April 14th, beginning a week of what is considered sacred to religious Jews. Seder, meaning “order” in Hebrew, is usually a gathering of the family to eat, pray, and recount the tale of the Jewish slaves’ exodus from Egypt, circa 3,300 years ago. It was around that time when famed biblical character Moses – popularized in the film The Ten Commandments – called upon the Pharaoh to let his “people go”. After unrelenting in his apparent desire to keep the Jewish people in bondage, it is believed that Moses, along with the guidance of God, let loose ten plagues upon the Egyptian people.
The final and most profound plague was the slaying of the first-born male child of every Egyptian household. It is said that an angel of death passed over the homes of the Jewish slaves, which had been marked with lamb’s blood. Hence, the term “pass over” refers to the sparing of the Jews. It was after this last plague, that Pharaoh released the Jewish slaves, only to then chase after them with an army of chariots. Possibly the most famous portion of the story occurred next, when Moses is believed to have parted the Red Sea, allowing for safe passage of the Jews and a subsequent safeguard from Pharaoh and his men.
As the Jews left Egypt swiftly, they did not have time to allow for the proper baking of bread. Instead they relied upon unleavened bread (matzo) during their escape. This is why, now, through the course of Passover’s observance a main tradition is abstinence from items such as breads, cakes, cookies, pasta, etc. Although there are many other traditions associated with Passover, the holiday is mainly a profound commemoration of a time when the Jewish people suffered greatly, for almost 400 years, as slaves in Egypt. Now, in 2014, over 3,000 years after the Jewish exodus, Passover is a time when Jewish families gather to recant what may have been a dark, yet important time in religious history.
By Josh Taub