The eight-day festival of Pesach (Passover) will commence either just after sunset or just after nightfall on Monday, April 18th, 2011, concluding either at sunset or at nightfall on Monday, April 25th, 2011 (From 15th to the 22nd of Nissan, 5771 in the Jewish calendar).
It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. And, by following the rituals of Passover, we have the ability to relive and experience the true freedom that our ancestors gained.
After many decades of slavery to the Egyptian Pharaohs, during which time the Israelites were subjected to back-breaking labor and unbearable horrors, Gd saw the people's distress and sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message: "Send forth My people, so that they may serve Me." But despite numerous warnings, Pharaoh refused to heed Gd's command. Gd then sent upon Egypt ten devastating plagues, afflicting them and destroying everything from their livestock to their crops.
At the stroke of midnight of Nissan 15 of the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), Gd visited the last of the ten plagues on the Egyptians. While doing so, Gd spared the Children of Israel passing over their homes - hence the name of the holiday.
The Pharaoh's resistance was broken, and gave up chasing his ex-slaves. The Israelites left Egypt in such a hurry that the dough prepared for the journey did not go up, that is not fermented, so it is traditional eat Matza Lechem Oni (bread of poverty), bread without fermentation. That day began the journey to Mount Sinai and birth as the Chosen People of Gd.
The Seder (The Holiday Meal)
- The seder table should already be set before nightfall, with the seder plate, matzot, cups etc.
- The seder plate should contain - starting from top going clockwise - an egg lightly roasted, a piece of meat, charoset (usually made of grated apple, ground walnuts, cinnamon, red wine and dates), chazeret (a vegetable), karpas (potato, parsley etc.) and in the middle maror (the bitter herb - horseradish or romaine lettuce). A bowl of salt water should be placed on the table but not on the plate.
- Three whole matzot shmura should be placed under or in front of the plate. They should be covered and separated from each other by a napkin or cloth. Matzot shmura are matzot that were made for the sake of the mitzvah and from wheat that was protected from moisture from the time of its harvest. They are the matzot that one should use for the commandments of the seder.
- Everyone should have a cup that holds at least 86 cc. And there should be enough wine to fill four cups for each person at the seder. Red wine is preferable but white wine may also be used. Children and pregnant women or people who for health reasons cannot drink wine, may fulfill the obligation with grape juice (preferably, with a little wine mixed in). The cups should be filled to the brim for each of the four cups of wine.
Seder is concluded with the singing of the traditional songs (Echad Mi Yodea, Chad Gadya, Adir Hu, etc.)
To learn more, click.