From the banks of the Red Sea comes a holiday celebration of Biblical – make that
Torahesque - proportions. It’ s Passover, the most important holiday of the Jewish month
of Nisan (that’ s either March or April on modern calendars). The holiday commemorates
the escape of the Hebrews from Egypt, named in honor of the God’ s “ passing over” of
the Hebrew first born immediately before their departure – as opposed to the Egyptian
first born, who God, shall we say, didn’ t pass over. The holiday celebration lasts an
impressive seven days total. And while modern Passover is generally a bit more relaxed
than its Exodus origins, it’ s still a big effort to pull off. But ultimately, the celebration
is rewarding for those in the Jewish community and all who observe it, a time to cherish
family ties and traditions, and definitely not something to pass over.
As is the case with many Jewish holidays, the rituals of Passover are intricate enough
to require a graduate level college course. Chief among the Passover ceremonies is
the baking of the Matzo bread, left flat to honor the lack of cooking time the Hebrews
had before the Exodus, as well as in recognition of the fact that fully cooked bread is
sometimes associated with inflated egos. By tradition, Matzo has to be cooked within
twenty-two minutes, resulting in whirlwind kitchen sessions. But thankfully observers of
Passover are allowed more time to buy the ingredients; perhaps the original observances
of Passover foresaw the disastrous supermarket lines that would exist in modern times.
Other important Passover traditions include the Seder dinner on the first night, the
Counting of the Omer on the second night, the retelling of the Red Sea parting on the
seventh night, and one more Seder on the final night.
For those in the family who might not be able to make the festivities, it’ s a good time to
send a Passover greeting card. It’ s always been traditional to send wishes for a warm and
joyous Seder with a card, and your family will love that you wish them Chag Sameach
even as you’ re rushing to get the Matzo done on time.