Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
was ordained by God as the Israelites prepared to leave slavery
in Egypt (Exodus 12). The people were told to slay a lamb,
or kid, of the first year, without blemish, on the 14th of
the month Abib (later renamed Nisan). The blood of the lamb
was to be smeared on the lintel and side posts of the door
using a bunch of hyssop. This was to show the angel of God
who was sent to slay all the Egyptian firstborn that the household
were people of faith under the protection of God. The angel
was to pass over that house.
The unleavened bread (matza) was a dry food suitable for
their hasty departure. Bread was normally made by keeping
a small amount of dough (the leaven) from one baking to the
next. The dough fermented and became sour. This was added
to the next batch of bread and served to lighten it in the
way that yeast is used today.
Passover is probably the best known of the Jewish holidays
and is now more a formal celebration with much of its spiritual
meaning having been lost.
Today the most significant observance is the removal of leaven
from the homes of the Jews. Leaven must not be eaten or even
owned during the Passover. It must not be fed to pets or cattle
and all utensils in which leaven is cooked must be disposed
of or sold to a non-Jew ( Gentile).
Cleaning the home of all leaven is an enormous task. Several
days are spent scrubbing everything down and going over stove
and fridge with a fine toothpick. After the cleaning is complete,
the morning before Passover, a formal search of the house
is made to make sure there is no leaven remaining. Any leaven
found is burned.
The day before Passover is also the Fast of the Firstborn.
This is a minor fast for all firstborn males to commemorate
the fact that the Jewish males in Egypt were not killed during
the final plague.
Jews no longer sacrifice animals so, on the first night of
Passover, traditional Jews have a special family meal filled
with ritual to remind them of the significance of the holiday.
This meal is called a seder.
Passover lasts for 7 days. No work is permitted on the 1st
and last days of the holiday although work is permitted on
the intervening days.
Passover is a celebration of freedom, when the Israelites
were given freedom from slavery in Egypt. Sadly that freedom
is seen as freedom to please oneself and the real lesson of
dependence, reliance and faith in the One True God of Israel
has been lost.
Jesus kept the Passover and a meal was eaten by him and his
disciples who, with many others, had made the journey to Jerusalem
to keep the feast. The Passover lamb was a prophetic symbol
of the Lamb of God, Jesus, who was killed to save his people
from the slavery of sin and death. As the Passover lambs were
being slain in Jerusalem on Nisan 14, Jesus was dying on the
cross, his life blood shed for the forgiveness of sins.