Here’s everything you need to know as Passover starts this week

As one of the most widely observed holidays in the Jewish tradition, Passover commemorates the liberation of Jews from slavery in Egypt.

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Leah Nozick, 10, leads the Four Questions of Passover during Seder at the Feldman House Monday night, April 14, 2014. Jewish tradition holds that the youngest child at the table reads the questions. | Michelle L. Quinn~ For Sun-Times Media

Passover, the springtime Jewish holiday, overlaps with Easter this year. It begins at sundown on Wednesday, April 5, 2023.

Sun-Times file photo

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

When is Passover?

Passover starts at sundown Wednesday and ends at nightfall on April 13, though the date changes each year, like Easter and Ramadan.

On the Jewish calendar, Passover begins on the 15th day of Nisan, which is typically in March or April.

What is Passover?

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

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

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

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

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

Adobe stock photo

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

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

Jews identify their inner fears and stand up for those who are oppressed, Notik said. “It’s about showing people 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, he will focus on the war in Ukraine and political upheaval in Israel.

“The most important part is having empathy for people going through their own liberation — the pharaohs in our own mind that we have to free ourselves from,” Serotta said.

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

It’s marked by Jewish gatherings focused on unity, Torah learning and practice, 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 Bubby Fira’s Food Bank, 2935 W. Devon, that will cater to refugees and people without a permanent home.

Overlapping traditions

Passover often overlaps with Easter and will again on Sunday.

While both faiths use different calendars, Easter is closely related to Passover. Easter celebrates Jesus’ rising from the dead 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 because of differences between the Gregorian and Jewish calendars, Passover sometimes falls around a whole month later than Easter — three times every 19 years.

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