The passover lamb that our ancestors ate when the Holy Temple stood – is for what reason?
Because God passed over our ancestors’ homes in Egypt.
(From the Passover Haggadah)
פֶּסַח שֶׁהָיוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אוֹכְלִים בִּזְמַן שֶׁבֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הָיָה קַיָּם, עַל שׁוּם מָה?
עַל שׁוּם שֶׁפָּסַח הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַל בָּתֵּי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְּמִצְרַיִם.
(מן ההגדה של פסח)
Foundations for Planning
- How do the holidays bring beauty and order to our Jewish year?
- Why is Passover the most celebrated Jewish holiday?
- What does something’s name say about its essence?
Passover is known as the holiday commemorating the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom. One of the central mitzvot (commandments) of the holiday is to tell the story of the exodus. At the same time, the holiday has additional characteristics and reasons for...
Passover is known as the holiday commemorating the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom. One of the central mitzvot (commandments) of the holiday is to tell the story of the exodus. At the same time, the holiday has additional characteristics and reasons for its celebration.
The various aspects of the holiday are expressed in its diverse names:
The Passover Holiday – To remember the Passover sacrifice and because God passed over the houses of the Israelites in the plague of the firstborn, thereby sparing the firstborn Israelite children. “And you said, this passover sacrifice is to God, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in the land of Egypt when God defeated the Egyptians and saved our homes.” (Exodus; chapter 12, verse 27)
Feast of Matzah – To remember the unleavened bread eaten by the Israelites when they left Egypt, as they hurried to leave before their dough had time to rise. Matzah remains the main food eaten during the holiday in our days, as well. “You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread, and you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days.” (Exodus; chapter 23, verse 15)
Holiday of Freedom – Since the holiday marks the Israelites’ departure from slavery into freedom, the Sages called it “the time of our freedom”, and this is how it is mentioned in the holiday prayers: “God lovingly gave us holidays to be happy, festivals and times to rejoice, and this day of the feast of matzah, the time of our freedom, commemorating our exodus from Egypt.”
Springtime Festival – Because the holiday always falls during the spring season in Israel: “Keep the springtime month, and make Passover for your God, for it was in the springtime month that God brought you out of the land of Egypt during the night.” (Deuteronomy; chapter 17, verse 1)
- Retell the exodus story. You can tell it as a plot-driven narrative, inviting the students to fill in parts that they remember, like the names of central characters and events. Alternatively, you can play a game in which the different parts of the story are presented on cards (in words or drawings) and have the students tell the story in chronological order.
For older students:
- Learn about the four names for the holiday and their meanings: Split the class into four groups, having each group focus on a different name. Hand out cards with the name of the holiday and relevant biblical verses or passages from Chazal (the Rabbinic Sages), and a short explanation. The students should think of an interesting way to teach the rest of the class about the name they were assigned.
- If the students have computers, you can create a collaborative word cloud in Mentimeter and send them the link. There, the students can write all the words they can think of that are connected to Passover. Use a projector to present the final product on the board and, using colored markers, circle the different words that are connected to the different names; ask the students to guess why you chose to mark respective word groups with the same color.
Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.
- What part of the Passover holiday do you connect to most? Why?
- Why do you think God’s act of passing over the Israelites’ homes is so significant that the holiday is named after it?
- What do you think is the connection between the meaning of the holiday as a holiday of freedom and liberation, and the fact that it’s celebrated in the spring?
- Why do you think the holiday has been given more than one name, and not just “Feast of Unleavened Bread” as it appears in the Torah? Do you also have more than one name? What does each name signify? Why are you called that name?
- What other names would you suggest for the holiday? Explain why you think these names are appropriate, according to the customs and the story of the holiday.
- To further delve into the significance of the holiday’s various names, use the following activity: Have the students divide a piece of paper into four sections for the four different names; in each part, they should draw images that they think are connected to that name. Afterwards, they can switch papers with another student and try to identify the name of the holiday that is represented in each of the other student’s drawings.
On another piece of paper, ask students to draw an additional name that they have chosen for the holiday; their partners can then try to identify that name, as well.
- For older students: In order to understand what makes Passover so special that it has turned into the most celebrated Jewish holiday, ask the students to do a survey amongst their friends and family. The students can ask those they are interviewing: What Jewish holidays do you celebrate? What is your favorite holiday and why? Why do you think Passover is the most celebrated Jewish holiday? You can analyze the results of the survey together with the whole class, or divide into groups and compare answers.
- You can screen the movie “Prince of Egypt”, which describes the story of the holiday. What does watching the movie add to the experience and connection to the holiday story? What different interpretations did the makers of the film incorporate into the original story? (These can be seen as modern “midrashim”.)
- Watch this clip presenting the exodus story using human silhouettes.
- Learn more about the story of the holiday using the following resources: 10 Plagues, Telling the Exodus Story.