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.



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