What is Passover?

256px-BedikasChametzPassover is one of the most important festivals in the Jewish year. In 2015, Passover begins on the evening of Friday, April 3, and ends on the evening of Saturday, April 11. It is a festival that celebrates freedom and a time when Jewish people remember how the children of Israel were led out of Egypt by Moses over 3000 years ago, leaving a life of slavery behind them.

The story of the first Passover can be found in the Torah (the Hebrew Bible), within the Book of Exodus, and tells how Moses went to Egypt’s Pharaoh on many occasions, asking him to release the Israelites from slavery. Each time his request was refused, and eventually Moses warned the Pharaoh that God would send terrible plagues to descend upon Egypt if the Jews were not freed.

The Pharaoh did not believe Moses’ warning, however, and still refused to free his slaves. Just as Moses had foretold, ten plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, blight of the livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the death of firstborn children were sent to terrify the people of Egypt. During the final plague, which threatened the life of every firstborn child and which broke the Pharoah’s resistance, God told Moses that Israelites should mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood so that he would know to ‘pass over’ their houses and therefore spare their children from death. Thus the festival to remember these events would come to be known as Passover.


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Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.

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