The Torah commands a Pesakh observance of seven days. This is followed by Reform Jews and those who live in Israel. Conservative and Orthodox Jews outside of Israel celebrate Pesakh for eight days. Around the seventh century BCE, people were notified of a holiday's beginning by means of an elaborate network of mountaintop bonfires. To guard against the possibility of error, an extra day was added to many of the holidays. By the time a dependable calendar came into existence, the additional day was so deeply engrained, the talmudic sages made the practice halakha (law).

--excerpted from The Jewish Home: A Guide for Jewish Living (URJ Press, New York)

“You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time.  In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. No leaven shall be found in your houses for seven days. For whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the assembly of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a citizen of the country. You shall eat nothing leavened;  in all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread.” (Exodus 12:16-20)

The Book of Exodus specifically mandates that “throughout the seven days (of Pesakh) unleavened bread shall be eaten.” Accordingly, any food that has become fermented is prohibited during Passover. These forbidden foods, and by extension, utensils that come into contact with these foods, are characterized in Hebrew as hametz, literally meaning “sour.” Although it may seem a simple matter to distinguish between what’s unleavened (matzah) and what’s leavened (hametz), it’s not always obvious. Hopefully, this will clarify what’s what!

The traditional haggadah refers to Moses only once. The Reform movement’s haggadah omits him entirely! But wasn't he the same Moses who challenged Pharaoh, led the Israelites out of Egypt, and brought them to Mount Sinai?

Yes, all true. But the ancient rabbis feared that Moses might become deified as a result of his great leadership. Moreover, the rabbis wanted to emphasize that God was responsible for Israel's redemption. So Moses only got a bit part in our Passover ritual.

--excerpted from The Jewish Home: A Guide for Jewish Living (URJ Press, New York)

Eating matzah during Pesakh links us to Jews all over the world. The festival commemorating the Exodus from ancient Egypt reminds us of our ancestor's flight from slavery.

How often do we hear, “Why should I eat matzah for seven days? I can barely make it during the seder!” Pesakh sounds a clarion call for religious freedom across the globe. Matzah is the “bread of the poor” and provides a way to identify with people in need world-wide and remind ourselves that they ought not be forgotten.

It’s also valuable to eat matzah as a reinforcement of our Jewishness. We can recharge our Jewish batteries, proclaiming to ourselves, “What a magnificent heritage I have! I'm so proud to be Jewish!”

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