Seven Facts about Passover: for Beginners

1. Passover is the most-observed Jewish holiday.

2. Passover falls in the springtime. It begins on the 15th of Nisan.

3. Passover lasts for seven days (in Israel) and eight days (in the Diaspora.) Most Reform Jews follow the Israeli practice.

4. Passover is primarily a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. It is layered on an agricultural holiday celebrating the arrival of spring and planting time.

5. Observant Jews remove all products containing wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye from their homes. They prepare for Passover with a vigorous spring cleaning.

6. The primary observance of Passover is the Passover Seder, a meal and learning experience through which the foundational story of the Jews is learned and relearned. The script for the seder is called the Haggadah.

7. During the week of Passover, Jews eat matzah instead of leavened bread. Passover matzah is specially baked unleavened bread. This has resulted in an entire cuisine of Passover cooking.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

20 thoughts on “Seven Facts about Passover: for Beginners”

  1. In my family we lovingly refer to Pesach as the High Cholesterol and Constipation Holiday! This refers to all the matzo and eggs consumed during the time of the Holiday.

    None-the-less, it remains one of my favorite celebrations; the retelling of the tale of escape from Egypt, my family’s escapes from the pogroms of Russia and pre-war Poland, and just the pure joy of being with family and enjoying two evenings of the Holiday feast. I remember being the youngest at the table for several years and reciting the four questions until, finally (whew) a cousin took my place after Bar Mitzvah. Now the youngest is an adult of almost 30 yrs. and the next in line is an adorable 3. We have a few more years to go before she will ask them, but what fun that will be.

  2. For the last 20 years, my seder table has been filled with close friends (none are Jewish) and some years sprinkled with family, home for the holiday. I have often been the only Jewish person at the table. After all these years, my dear friends now join in with all the Hebrew prayers, make amazing Passover foods, and even nudge me to be sure I have enough matzah and not too much gefilte fish! Seder has always given me a chance to teach and a wonderful place to learn and share, play, sing, and eat very well! BTW, I have a no fair matzah ball soup recipe…glad to share if you like!

  3. Hope you’re feeling better, Rabbi Ruth. I have something I’d love to hear your thoughts on….I remember in some previous posts, we have discussed the word ‘observance’ and how it is used: and I ‘came out’ as being observant, when I decided that for me, it’s a spectrum, in principle not unlike the autism spectrum(and specifically, the thing which bothered me was that so often ‘observant’ seemed to go hand in hand with orthodox( or so it seems…..and they are not the same)…..but I *am* observant, in the ways I can manage.

    So, on reading this, it got me thinking:
    “5. Observant Jews remove all products containing wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye from their homes. They prepare for Passover with a vigorous spring cleaning.”

    I won’t be doing any of that…..but still regard myself as observant.( various reasons, mostly health and circumstance related reasons)

    However….I was thinking….this year, Im concentrating on spiritual chametz……and I got that idea from your posts; I’d never thought from that point of view before, and it seems perfect for me, so thank you greatly for it.

    I’ll read the Haggadah – got a bunch of different ones, and will probably use several. And, I have always seen myself as the four children – each representing aspects of myself, my character, my life.

    I shall try to eschew bread, but not give myself a hard time if I don’t manage it.

    And I’ll try to find somewhere inside a deeper knowledge of and connection with myself and all those who came before me, stretching right back to Sinai.

    So, that’s my plan; what do you think?

    1. Exodus 12:15 – “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel.”

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