What Is the Story of Passover?
By: Nancy Hersh
Passover is a holiday that commemorates the time in history when the Jewish people were freed from slavery in the land of Egypt. The Jewish people were slaves, and they wanted to be free. The Pharaoh had decreed that all Jewish male babies were to be killed because he felt that the Jewish people were becoming too strong.
One couple, Jocheved and Amran, decided to try to save their infant son. They put him in a basket, and floated him on the river.They sent their daughter, Miriam, to watch and make sure that someone rescued the baby from the river.
The rescuer was Pharaoh's daughter. She called him Moses, which means, take from the water, and she raised him as her own son. When he grew up, he had much empathy for the Jewish slaves, and when he found out that he was a Jew, he wanted to help his people. He tried to get the Pharaoh to free the Jewish slaves, but the Pharaoh refused. Moses had a special relationship with G-d.
There were 10 plagues sent down to Egypt, but still the Pharaoh would not let the Jews go. Finally, after the 10th plague, which was the slaying of the first born sons, he relented and said that the Jewish people could leave. They gathered up their belongings quickly, and didn't have time for their bread to rise, so they had to bake it and take it the way it was. This is why the Jewish people eat matzah during Passover. As the Jews were fleeing, Pharaoh changed his mind, and sent his army after the people to bring them back. G-d parted the Red Sea for the Jews to cross, and as soon as they were safely to the other side, the waters closed on the soldiers, drowning them all. The Jewish people were saved.
The 10 Plagues are: Blood, Frogs, Lice, Beasts, Cattle Disease, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness, Slaying of the Firstborn.
Passover is celebrated today in homes by having a seder. Seder means order, and we read the Passover story in a special order from the book called a haggadah. Haggadah means "to tell" and we tell the story of our ancestors, and remind ourselves that we are now a free people.
There are different parts of the seder and during the seder, we eat traditional and symbolic foods that remind us of the Jewish people and their adversity. One of the things that we do is to dip a spring vegetable into salt water. The vegetable is a sign of spring, or rebirth, and the salt water represent the tears of the slaves. We eat bitter herbs, to remind us of the bitterness of slavery. We eat a special mixture, called Charoset, which is made of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon (although there are many different varieties of this, depending on where your ancestors lived) that reminds us of the mortar that the slaves made their bricks from.
The name Passover comes from when the Angel of Death passed over the homes of the Jews, because they had been forewarned, and had put lambs blood on their doors, so that death would spare their first born child.
For more fun tips and stories about this holiday, please visit our main Passover page: printables, recipes, and crafts (like our Passover Seder Placemat, Bedikat Chametz craft, or Cardboard Tube Moses).