Passover (Passach) – Jewish Holiday
Jews celebrate many holidays and events throughout the year, a majority of which are a commemoration of key Biblical events. Every Jewish festival has its own set of rituals, ceremonies and traditions, however, three Jewish holidays involve making a Pilgrimage, which is why these are called the Three Pilgrimage Festivals. These include Passach (Passover), Shavuot and Sukkot. Passach, Shavuot and Sukkot are collectively referred to as Shlosh HeRegalim.
Among the three pilgrimage festivals, Passach is most significant because it is celebrated to commemorate the birth of an independent Israeli nation. Up until 70CE, Passach pilgrimage was made to a Temple built on Temple Mount, located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Over the course of centuries, this festival has undergone considerable changes in its rituals and associated traditions.
Originally, the pilgrims would bring a sacrificial offering to the temple, but this ritual has been replaced with prayers now. The pilgrimage is now made to the Western Wall, which is the only remaining wall of the Temple while the Temple itself doesn’t stand anymore. Furthermore, the pilgrimage is no more considered a Torah obligation; however, thousands of Jews visit the City of Gold as part of the pilgrimage festivity.
In the Western Wall, there is a particular point that is believed to be the nearest point to where the Holy of Holies of the Second Temple was mounted. A majority of the pilgrims choose to pray at this point. Basically, Passach is a celebration of freedom because on this day in the past, Jews were able to break free from the clutches of a foreign ruler and got independence from slavery.
The Passach festivities last 7 days in Israel and for 8 days elsewhere in the world. The festival starts on the 15th Nissan as per the Jewish calendar and by the end of March as per the Christian calendar. The festivities begin with Seder Night, on which a celebratory meal comprising of symbolic foods is served and the whole family eats together. After the meal, it is a tradition to read the Hagadah story, which is about the exodus of Israel from Egypt.
An interesting fact is that throughout the celebratory week, Jews refrain from eating foods made from fragmented grain including bread. This is an act of commemoration of the time when Israelis were made to exit Egypt in such a hurry that even the bread could not rise due to shortage of time.
The Passover pilgrimage is also mentioned in the New Testament, which is why Christians also recognize this festival. The pilgrimage denotes an event from the life of Jesus Christ. When Christ was 12-years old, he traveled to Jerusalem to make Passover pilgrimage with his parent. It was this visit when his parent lost him and Christ was finally found preaching in the Temple (Luke 4:43). Years later Jesus again arrived in Jerusalem, just a few days before his crucifixion, for the Passover Pilgrimage.