Jewish Holidays and Festivals

Please see for a schedule of what day a holiday occurs in this calendar year.

Passover and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread

EX:12:12, Lev:23:5-8
  • Celebration of deliverance from Egypt
  • Communion and Crucifixion, the body of Christ and his burial
Recommendation: a PBS Home video conveys the spirit and music wonderfully. Click here for the description page on PBS. This video may be in your library. It's in the King Co Washington library.
Pesach (The Passover) is the Jewish festival of freedom. It is held in remembrance of the time when the children of Israel safely left Egypt after they had long been slaves.

NOTE: Another description is after the songs in this page.

The name Passover refers specifically to the tenth plague that God inflicted on Egypt. A destroying angel killed the firstborn in every Egyptian home but passed over the homes of the Israelites where special markings had been made on each door.

The festival of the Passover is sometimes called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the Israelites hurried to bake unleavened bread before they left Egypt. This bread is called matzah, and it is still baked and eaten today at Passover.

During this time it is forbidden to eat or use any flour, cereal, dried peas, beans, yeast, baking powder, or anything that may have in any way come in contact with chometz (leaven).

Passover Plate
Every room in every house and every cooking utensil is specially cleaned before the beginning of Pesach. Just after dark falls on the eve of Passover, the father takes a candle and goes from room to room to make sure that no chometz is left anywhere in his home. This is the beginning of sacred rituals held in all Jewish homes.

Another rule of the Passover is that the firstborn of each family must fast on the eve of Pesach. If the firstborn is under thirteen years of age, the father fasts for the child. Boys and girls have special importance in the rituals, the youngest one present asking why this holy time is celebrated and the others giving the answers. This takes place during the Seder meal, or feast, when the children take part in the Haggadah, or tale of the Pesach.

Children in Israel sing many little songs about Pesach and play games in which they pretend that they are being driven out of Egypt. Here is one song they sing as they play:
Israelites together stand!
We are quitting Egypt’s land.
On our shoulder matzah—
Staves in our hand,
See us onward marching
Out of Egypt’s Land.
Another song the boys and girls in Israel like to sing about this happy holiday is:
Holiday cheer! Holiday cheer!
Spring is coming; Pesach’s near.
Sew in my jacket pockets four
And fill them up with nuts galore.
Pesach begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nisan and lasts eight days. Of all the Jewish holidays, Pesach is the one most commonly observed, even by otherwise non-observant Jews. It is the first of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Shavuot and Sukkot. Agriculturally, it represents the beginning of the harvest season in Israel. The primary observances of Pesach are related to the Exodus from Egypt after generations of slavery. It refers to the fact that God "passed over" the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt. In English, the holiday is known as Passover. Pesach is also the name of the sacrificial offering (a lamb) that was made in the Temple on this holiday.

The Feast of Passover or Pesach celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt, a cleansing, a move from bondage in the world toward freedom and Heaven. Christian symbolism understands Passover as a passage from death in the grave to deliverance from death and sin, and from our sin to perfection in Christ. Jewish women light the Pesach candles because they are the pure hope of the world, as Jesus is to Christianity.

During the seder (order) meal, ritual questions are asked about the past and present. Jews celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread at the Passover, which we compare to the death and resurrection of Christ. During the Passover meal a broken piece of matzoh (unleavened bread) is put into a white bag and hidden nearby. This is called the afikomen (hidden). After the meal it is "found" again. Jews relate that to the ancient paschal lamb.

Latter-day Saints understand it is an act in similitude of the body of Christ buried and resurrected, see Matt 26:26. The leaven in bread is an agent of change which invites distortion from truth, it destroys the purity of the seed. The covering of the hidden bread symbolizes to us the tomb from which Jesus arose and as the tomb becomes empty, Christ, the living seed of the living God, rises from the tomb, so the bread is brought forth. The seed itself buried in earth rises from its tomb as wheat without leaven, becoming bread. The seed is known by its fruit, it is free of the stains of the world.

The word Bethlehem, Bet L'hem means house of bread. From the coffin (seed), comes the fruit (the spirit that rises to everlasting life).

To honor the future, a glass of wine is set aside for Elijah, who will come to tell of the arrival of the Mashiach and rescue the Jews from oppression. It is noteworthy that the holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than the time of the receiving of the Torah. The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah, that we receive it every day, but it was first given at this time. Thus it is the giving, not the receiving, that makes this holiday significant.

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