Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread
The Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era, in every year and in every day.
- Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
Pesach, Passover, is a seven* day Festival commemorating the story of the Jews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt to redemption in the Land of Israel. We are prohibited from eating chametz [leavened products] throughout the Festival as a reminder of our ancestors’ hurried escape from Egypt when they didn’t even have enough time to let their bread rise.
The key Pesach service is not that in the synagogue, although that occurs, but in the home with what is probably the Western world’s oldest continually practised ritual, the Passover or Pesach Seder. The Seder retells what is arguably the best known of all stories in the form of dinner theatre. The people at the table are the actors; the food and drink are the props and the Haggadah forms the basis of the script.
A Haggadah is not a work of history or philosophy and nor is it a prayer book, user manual, timeline or manuscript – and yet it is all these things. The Torah might be Judaism’s foundational text for law, the Haggadah is Judaism’s book of living memory.
The Seder follows a time-honoured tradition of doing, saying and eating things in a specific order to take us through our people’s story from slavery to freedom and questions are encouraged. After all, we’re not slaves anymore: free people can ask and debate; slaves may not.
* please note that Orthodox diaspora Jews mark Pesach as an eight day Festival.