Article - Feast of Pesah
"This day shall be to you one of remembrance; you shall keep it as a feast of the Lord throughout the generations" (Exodus 12:14)
In these words the Lord commanded Moses and the Children of Israel to celebrate their deliverance from 430 years of slavery. From that memorable time, some 3,300 years ago, the night of the 14th of Nissan has seen Jews the world over ushering in the seven-day (eight days in the Diaspora) Feast of Unleavened Bread with the traditional Seder.
The significance of Passover (Pesah in Hebrew) is threefold - the biblical exhortation to remember the Exodus from Egypt; the identification of every Jew with the Jewish nation, and the deep human need to praise the Creator in the spring, when the earth awakens to new life.
Through the ages, the rites of spring have been an important point in Man's spiritual calendar. With the entry of the Children of Israel into the Promised Land and their return to a normal, agricultural existence, Passover became one with spring sowing. The Bible records the first anniversary of the exodus in Numbers 9:5, telling how it was "kept ... in the wilderness of Sinai." Forty years later, the Israelites forded the Jordan with Joshua at their head, and "kept the Passover in the plains of Jericho."
In those early days each participant was clad as instructed in Exodus 12:11, "with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand." The preparation of the paschal lamb - its blood on the doorposts was a sign to the Angel of Death to pass over Jewish homes - and the unleavened bread eaten quickly commemorated the hasty flight. Then each father fulfilled the injunction to "show thy son ... saying: This is done because of that which the lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt."
During the First and Second Temples Passover was one of the three annual pilgrim holidays centered on Jerusalem, while the Seder ritual changed little over this era of about 1,000 years. When, in 70 CE, the Temple was destroyed and the Jews dispersed, another pattern emerged - a pattern accepted for nearly two millennia. Based mainly on symbolism, the Seder began with the guests reclining to stress the distinctiveness of the day and with the posing of the traditional four questions. of the matzot on the Seder table, two symbolized the double portion of manna collected each Friday in the wilderness to obviate the need to work on the Sabbath. The third matzah, the middle one - was divided to mark the parting of the Red Sea's waters for the Israelites to cross over on dry land. The shankbone recalled the sacrificial lamb; the bitter herbs, the pain and suffering; the salt water, the fears; and the paste of nuts and spices - haroset - the mortar used to join the bricks molded with so much hardship.
From the time of Moses, Jewish families the world over have gathered on the evening of the 14th of Nissan. For the past 2,000 years they have recalled their freedom from bondage and renewed their links with the Jewish nation, but the third factor - the farming aspect - was missing, for the Jews had no land of their own.
However, since the State of Israel came into being in 1948, Israel Jews have once more added the third dimension to the Passover festival, and together with their brothers in the Diaspora join in the national holiday of freedom and thanksgiving.
Featured on the three stamps in this series are scenes depicting highlights of the Passover festival: the children of Israel being led out of Egypt by Moses (tab inscribed ". . . for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt" [Exodus 34:18]; the baking of unleavened bread (matzah) in medieval times (tab inscribed "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread" [Exodus 12:15]; and a Jewish family conducting the Passover Seder (tab inscription "according to all the stature for Passover they shall keep it" [Numbers 9:12]).