Passover 2023: Here’s everything you need to know as Passover begins this week

Passover 2023: Here's everything you need to know as Passover begins this week

As Jews prepare this week for the start of Passover, one of the most observed holidays in their religious tradition, the Sun-Times has prepared a breakdown of everything you need to know.

When is Easter?

Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday and ends at nightfall on April 13, although the date changes every year, such as Easter and Ramadan.

In the Jewish calendar, Passover begins on 15 Nisan, which is usually in March or April.

What is Passover?

The Passover commemorates the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt and the “passing over” of God’s forces of destruction, sparing the firstborn of the Israelites.

Jews celebrate the first night of Passover with a ritual dinner known as the Seder, then abstain from sourdough bread for about a week. It is traditional to eat matzah, which looks like a cracker but is also used in a soup.

“It’s a dinner with stages — all kinds of rituals are part of it,” said Rabbi Ike Serotta, of Lakeside Congregation in Highland Park.

Serotta plans to hold Seder at his home with his wife and children. He also expects dozens of his extended family and worshipers to participate virtually via video conference — something he and other Jews began doing in the time of COVID-19.

Matzah ball soup is a type of dish usually served during Passover.

The story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, or Maggid, occurs during the Seder, but adherents reflect on the theme of freedom throughout Passover.

“We try to relive the past and find inner freedom within ourselves,” said Rabbi Levi Notik, of the FREE Synagogue on Devon Avenue.

Jews identify their inner fears and stand up for those who are oppressed, Notik said. “It’s about showing people that they can free themselves from their inner Egypt.”

What to expect this year

The focus of Passover is usually different every year, Serotta said. This year it will focus on the war in Ukraine and the political upheaval in Israel.

“The most important part is having empathy for people who are going through their own liberation — the pharaohs in our own minds that we need to be liberated from,” Serotta said.

This year, Passover falls in the Jewish year of Hakhel, or “gathering.”

It is marked by Jewish gatherings focused on unity, learning and practicing Torah, according to Notik. “From that perspective, it’s a much bigger Seder,” he said.

Notik plans to lead two Seders on Wednesday and Thursday at the Bubby Fira Food Bank, 2935 W. Devon, which will cater to refugees and people without permanent homes.

Overlapping traditions

Passover often coincides with Easter and will again be on Sunday.

While the two religions use different calendars, Easter is closely tied to Passover. Easter celebrates the ascension of Jesus three days after the Last Supper, which was a Passover Seder.

Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21, the start of spring.

But due to differences between the Gregorian and Jewish calendars, Passover sometimes falls about a month after Easter — three times every 19 years.

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