Passover 

JNS.org covers the Passover holiday and Passover Seder traditions. The holiday commemorates the biblical Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. JNS.org offers related news from around the Jewish world and Israel, features, and yearly Passover Seder recipes. To select another topic, choose from the other content “categories” in our navigation bar.

Latest News

The song sung by Israel after the splitting of the Red Sea invites us to focus on the miracle of Passover’s seventh day. This splitting of the sea was the big equalizer—everyone sang together. You didn’t have to be Isaiah or Ezekiel, Moses, Miriam the prophetess, a lay person, or a bondswoman—all saw God together and sang. The same was true when all Israelis went out to the streets singing and celebrating the United Nations resolution that established a Jewish state. Witnessing our modern miracles in Israel, we simply have to open our eyes and souls, writes Dr. Shraga Bar-On, a member of the Shalom Hartman Institute's Beit Midrash for New Israeli Rabbis Program.

During the Passover holiday, Jews around the world celebrate the story of the Israelites’ freedom from Egypt—and their subsequent 40 years of wandering the desert. Deserts are known to be famously inhospitable to all kinds of life, but in Israel today, new forests and vineyards are being cultivated on the ancient desert soil and bringing new life to a barren region in the form of award-winning, world-class wines. With the help of modern Israeli innovation and intense reforestation of its ancient site, Yatir Winery has created a kosher wine that critics praise for its “unique dry Mediterranean flavors.”

Hillary Clinton didn’t grow up celebrating Pesach. But over the years, she has attended seders where she was inspired by the remarkable story told in the haggadah—a tale of a people who, sustained by fortitude and faith, escaped slavery and reached their freedom. In a pre-Passover op-ed that is first distributed by JNS.org, the Democratic presidential candidate offers a few of her own thoughts on ancient lessons that still hold wisdom for today’s world. 

The art and creation of an inspired Passover meal can be challenging. For some, making the same recipes each year represents tradition, comfort, and familiarity, and for others like me, trying new recipes makes me excited to come to the table and share new tastes with others. The effort and energy one extends to prepare for family on any holiday creates a connection and the memories for one’s family that will be cherished forever. Elizabeth Kurtz is motivated to inspire people to taste new dishes, to broaden their palate, or mostly to enjoy the moments they spend in the kitchen preparing for Passover. She presents her tips and tricks to making Passover cooking easy and delicious, followed by three Passover-friendly recipes—soup, main course, and dessert—from her kosher cookbook, “CELEBRATE.”

In the 1930s, Rabbi Tobias Geffen of Atlanta began to investigate the hidden ingredients inside mass-produced foods and to evaluate whether those ingredients conflict with kosher laws. He then set a precedent by getting The Coca-Cola Company to make a kosher-for-Passover version of its soft drink, convincing the company to substitute the grain alcohol used in the processing of its drink to alcohol derived from molasses. Geffen’s achievement was a response to the fact that in the 1920s, “Coke became an incredibly popular beverage in America,” and “Jews adopted a custom of making it available to children during the Passover seder in lieu of wine,” said historian Roger Horowitz, author of the new book “Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food.” This step by Coca-Cola stood out at a time when few mainstream food manufacturers were making kosher-for-Passover products. JNS.org explores the history and its influence on the modern-day Passover food industry.

Chef and best-selling author Paula Shoyer returns to JNS.org with recommendations that she guarantees will match the Passover culinary tradition while simultaneously enlivening your seder. On her menu this year: seder plate salad, seared tuna with olives and capers, and gluten-free Linzer tart.

Nearly every year around the time of the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter, theologians and historians start to ask the same question: Was Jesus’s Last Supper a Passover seder? “It is all very mysterious,” says Rabbi Raymond Apple, rabbi emeritus of the Great Synagogue in Sydney, Australia. Through interviews with religion experts, JNS.org tries to solve the mystery.

ArtScroll and Maxwell House have done their parts to make a simple Passover haggadah accessible and inexpensive. But sometimes just reciting the words of the seder isn’t enough to engage seder participants—or even to help them to understand the Passover story. “What I learned is that my family had never really understood the service they had been using for many, many years,” says Barbara Bayer of Overland Park, Kan., who about 30 years ago decided to write her own haggadah. “I went to simple sources that told the story simply and succinctly and the family loved it and still does.” Making your own haggadah is not as complicated as one might think. For starters, there are many Web platforms that allow you to create a customized seder manual by providing curated sources from across the Jewish community. JNS.org explores the process.

How hard can making matzah be? Mix flour and water, and bake. Actually, there are various ways that one can go about producing matzah—and the results are all a little different. When you’re standing in the supermarket just before the holiday trying to choose matzah, it might help to know what you are looking at. It’s not just the orange box versus the blue box, or even hand-made versus machine-made. According to leading kashrut supervisors at the Star-K and Orthodox Union (OU) kosher-certification providers, there can be differences between the flour, the baking process, and even the time it takes for the matzah to be produced. JNS.org surveys the landscape of your matzah options.

This is not your bible’s eighth plague. Passover story, welcome to the 21st century—and meet the robotic locusts. Imagine Moses’s surprise if he knew that generations later, his descendants would invent a small machine that, in nearly every detail, is a dead ringer for the kind of locust that devoured everything left standing in Egypt after the hail (seventh plague of 10) had done its damage. The new robotic locust is a collaborative affair of Tel Aviv University and ORT Braude College in Karmiel, Israel. The robot's body produced by a 3D printer using the same plastic Legos are made of. Its legs are fashioned of carbon rods, its springs of steel wire. A single lithium battery can power up to 1,000 jumps of more than 11 feet by the locust. As the tech revolution—robotic locusts included—shows no sign of relinquishing its hold on Jewish life, JNS.org explores the issues at play.

Passover is the holiday of freedom. A person or a society are free when they are on their own, not subject to any other authority. But the meaning of freedom can be grasped in different and even contradictory ways. The seder night is not an imitation, but three original and bold interpretations of freedom that Judaism gave to the world: religious freedom, national freedom, and moral freedom, writes Dr. Shraga Bar-On, a research fellow at the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute.

 

The Passover seder begins by welcoming anyone who is hungry, an idea that comes straight from the Book of Exodus (23:9), which states, “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Over the generations, the Jewish people have been “strangers” more than once, including during the Babylonian exile, following the Holocaust, and after fleeing Arab countries or the former Soviet Union. Appreciative immigrants tell JNS.org that just as the Torah requires Jews to welcome the stranger, Jews need to be grateful for the freedom and welcoming atmosphere they experience in America.

Between 19 BCE and 4 BCE, King Herod I renovated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. During this same period, we first learn of the Jewish pilgrimages to Jerusalem on the shalosh regalim, “the three pilgrimage festivals.” All three festivals center on the story of the Exodus, but Passover is the first and foremost. The pilgrimage to Jerusalem served as a message of unity for all of the Jews, and the same message resonates today. “We are in Hashem’s backyard. Now that all the Jews are scattered in exile, we sometimes forget about belonging here, where you still can experience the inspiration and community consciousness of being together in celebration,” says Tova Hametz, who lives in Jerusalem's Old City.

For some of us, a certain measure of austerity is associated with the Passover holiday, when we forgo bread and other leavened products for a week. At the same time, restaurant chefs, cookbook authors, and home cooks alike have been embracing the idea that cooking on Passover does not need to be inherently bland—and can even be upscale. “The purpose of Passover is to celebrate our freedom from slavery in Egypt. Eating unleavened bread/matzah is due to the haste in which we left. But by no means is the purpose of Passover to remember the lack of normal food,” says Joy of Kosher cookbook author Jaime Geller.

According to the Pew Research Center’s “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” survey that was released in October 2013, 58 percent of Jews marry outside the faith. Against that statistical backdrop, a growing number of Jewish families must work to accommodate non-Jews at the seder table, or witness relatives attending Easter celebrations at the same time of year. “There’s a popular consciousness around the so-called ‘December Dilemma’ [of interfaith families balancing Christmas and Hanukkah], but for many families, Passover time is much more complicated,” says Lindsey Silken, editorial director at InterfaithFamily, a Boston-based national non-profit organization that provides such families with information and assistance. 

How is this year’s Passover seder different from all other seders? More often than not, the answer might be, “Nothing’s different at all.” David Silberman’s Haggadah offers not one, but six possible solutions for seder participants who are starving to mix things up. “The Mosaic Haggadah” identifies six color-coded themes central to the Passover story—freedom, contemporary (the Haggadah as a modern story), family and community, gratitude, redemption, and Israel—and intersperses essays on those subjects throughout the traditional text, allowing users to follow one theme/color throughout the night. Silberman hopes his Haggadah will make the seder ritual more meaningful, memorable, and modern. “Passover may have occurred some thousands of years ago, but in a way, Passover occurs or can occur every day,” he tells JNS.org.

For those who feel that Passover cooking can be as restrictive as their ancestors’ enslavement in Egypt, pastry chef and author Paula Shoyer says her new book “has arrived to set you free.” A former practicing attorney, Shoyer has appeared on the Food Network and Martha Stewart Living Radio and works as a consultant to kosher bakeries. Her latest undertaking is “The New Passover Menu,” a book released on Feb. 3. “Everywhere I went, people asked me about savory food, but specifically Passover foods,” Shoyer told JNS.org. They mentioned how hard it is, the food is terrible, the desserts are terrible. They made it sound like it was such a misery to cook for Passover. For me it is not. I realized I needed to write a cookbook and focus on what you can eat, instead of what you cannot eat.”

Pulitzer Prize finalist Regina Brett had been dating a Jewish man for the first time in her life, and he invited her to celebrate Passover with a few dozen friends. That first Passover pulled Brett into a new world, one that now feels like home, she writes.

In the Exodus story, Moses decides to rescue his people after he hears God speak to him through the burning bush. But when New York City-based artist Jan Aronson imagined the famous episode in which Moses must decide which path to take in life, she didn’t see a magic fire, but the broiling sun rising and shining on the desert brush. In that moment of meditation, Moses heard the inner voice that told him to go confront Pharaoh. This is just one of the inspirations behind the illustrations that Aronson included in the Bronfman Passover Haggadah, a collaboration with her late husband, renowned Jewish philanthropist Edgar Bronfman. The original hard-cover book will be released as an app for the iPhone and iPad this March.

In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 as the "Year of the Bible." From Ridley Scott's "Exodus" starring Christian Bale as Moses to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. But in an age of increasing secularism, will these new biblical epics be able to capture the attention of a new generation of Americans?