Pesah (Passover) is a Jewish and Samaritan holyday and festival commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. It is also known as Festival of the Unleavened
Passover begins on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew calendar, in accordance with the Hebrew Bible. The Exodus of the Jews from Egypt took place in the spring and so Passover must be celebrated in the spring.
In Israel, Passover is a seven-day holiday, with the first and last days observed as legal holidays and as holy days involving abstention from work, special prayer services, and holiday meals; the intervening days are known as Chol HaMoed (“festival days”). While modern Israeli Jews observe a seven-day holiday wherever they are, Diaspora Jews historically observed the festival for eight days, and most still do – the exceptions usually being found among Reform and Reconstructionst Jews. The reason for this extra day is not known. It is thought by many scholars that Jews outside of Israel could not be certain if their local calendars fully conformed to practice of the temple at Jerusalem, so they added an extra day. But as this practice only attaches to certain (major) holy days, others posit the extra day may have been added to accommodate people who had to travel long distances to participate in communal worship and ritual practices; or the practice may have evolved as a compromise between conflicting interpretations of Jewish Law regarding the calendar; or it may have evolved as a safety measure in areas where Jews were commonly in danger, so that their enemies could not be certain on which day to attack.
Many Jews observe the positive Torah commandment of eating matzo on the first night of Passover at the Passover Seder, as well as the Torah prohibition against eating chametz – certain leavening and fermenting agents, and things made with them, such as yeast breads, certain types of cake and biscuit, and certain alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages – but wine is an essential component of Passover, notwithstanding it is a fermented, yeast-bearing beverage. Karaite Jews are not bound by the oral law, under which “chametz” includes not only leavening agents but the grains from which bread is commonly made. Specifically, five grains, and products made from them, may not be used during Passover – wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt – except for making matzo, which must be made from one of these five grains. This is because the oral law decrees they begin to ferment within 18 minutes of contact with water. So, despite pasta not being a leavened product, macaroni products cannot be owned or used during Passover under this interpretation of Jewish Law. Ashkenazic rabbinical tradition also forbids the use of rice, most legumes and new world grains like maize (unknown to the old world when the Bible was written), because they might be made into bread (such as cornbread). Sephardic and other rabbinical traditions do not have this prohibition
Together with Sukkot (“Tabernacles”) and Shavuot (“Pentecost”), Passover is one of the three pilgrim festivals (Shloshet Ha’Regalim) during which the entire Jewish populace historically made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. Samaritans still make this pilgrimage to Mount Gerizim, but only men participate in public worship.
Passover commemorates the Exodus from Egypt and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. The term “passover” refers to God’s sparing of the Hebrew firstborn as he saw the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts of their houses on the night of the Tenth Plague. The Festival of the Unleavened Bread refers to the week-long period when leaven has been left out, and unleavened bread or matzah (“flatbread”), the holiday’s primary symbol, is eaten to recall the rapid departure of the Israelies from Egypt.