Every spring, Jewish families around the world face a particular challenge: ridding their homes of everything leavened, like most bread.
It’s hard work. Parents and children search every shelf, cupboard, and drawer. But it’s also an occasion for fun. Some families hide ten small pieces of leavened bread around the house, then conduct a search to round them up. For a brief period, the only bread consumed is matzah, a simple unleavened bread made of only flour and water. This is the Jewish holiday of Passover. The origins of the tradition lie in the book of Exodus, which tells the story of the ancient Israelites’ escape from Egypt. When Pharaoh refused Moses’s pleas to “Let my people go,” God sent ten plagues to Egypt. The final plague brought death to every first-born male. To protect the Israelite first-born, Moses tells them to mark their doorposts with the blood of a lamb. Because of that sign their homes were “passed over” during the terrible night. Following this final plague, Pharaoh let the Israelites go. They departed in haste; there was no time to let the bread rise. This is why only unleavened bread is eaten on the holiday. The week-long Passover festival remains a central part of Jewish tradition. Family and friends gather for a special meal, known as the seder. It is a ceremony of thanksgiving, of freedom, and of springtime. For thousands of years the festival of Passover has carried a biblical story into Jewish homes and now it is celebrated in every region of the globe.