PASSOVER (; Aramaic, ; hence the Greek Πάσχα).

—Biblical Data:

The Biblical account connects the term with the root (= "to pass by," "to spare"; Ex. xii. 13, 23, 27; comp. Isa. xxxi. 5). As a derivative designates (1) a festival and (2) the sacrificial lamb and meal introductory to the festival.

The festival commemorates the deliverance of Israel's first-born from the judgment wrought on those of the Egyptians (Ex. xii. 12-13; comp. Ex. xiii. 2, 12 et seq.), and the wondrous liberation of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage (Ex. xii. 14-17). As such, it is identical with the Maẓẓot (, Ex. xii. 17; , Lev. xxiii. 5-6) festival, and was instituted for an everlasting statute (Ex. xii. 14). Lev. xxiii., however, seems to distinguish between Passover, which is set for the fourteenth day of the month, and (the Festival of Unleavened Bread; ἑορτή τῶν ἀζύμων, Luke xxii. 1; Josephus, "B. J." ii. 1, § 3), appointed for the fifteenth day. The festival occurred in Abib (Ex. xiii. 4; Deut. xvi. 1 et seq., where the New Moon is given as the memorial day of the Exodus), later named Nisan, and lasted seven days, from sunset on the fourteenth day to sunset on the twenty-first day; the first and the seventh days were set aside for holy convocation, no work being permitted on those days except such as was necessary in preparing food (Num. xxviii. 16-25). During the seven days of the festival leaven was not to be found in the habitations of the Hebrews (Ex. xii. 19, xiii. 7). Leaven was not to be eaten under penalty of "excision" ("karet"; Ex. xii. 15, 19-20; xiii. 3; Deut. xvi. 3), and the eating of unleavened bread was commanded (Ex. xii. 15, 18; xiii. 6, 7; xxiii. 15; xxxiv. 18; Lev. xxiii. 6; Num. xxviii. 17). On the second day the omer of new barley was brought to the Temple (Lev. xxiii. 10-16; comp. First-Fruits).

Paschal Lamb.

The setting aside, slaughtering, and eating of the paschal lamb was introductory to the celebration of the festival. According to Ex. xii. this rite was instituted by Moses in Egypt, in anticipation of the judgment about to be visited on Pharaoh and his people. On the tenth of the month—ever thereafter to be the first month of the year—the Hebrews were to take a lamb for each household, "without blemish, a male of the first year," "from the sheep or from the goats." Kept until the fourteenth day, this lamb was killed "at eve" ("at the going down of the sun"; Deut. xvi. 6), the blood being sprinkled by means of a "bunch of hyssop" (Ex. xii. 22) on the two door-posts and on the lintels of the houses wherein the Hebrews assembled to eat the lamb during this night, denominated the ("night of the vigils unto Yhwh"; Ex. xii. 42, Hebr.; see, however, R. V. and margin). Prepared for the impending journey, with loins girded, shoes on their feet, and staves in their hands, they were to eat "in haste." The lamb was to be roasted at the fire, not boiled in water, or left raw; its head, legs, and inwards were not to be removed, and it was to be eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Nothing was to be left until the morning; anything that remained was to be burned (Ex. xii.).

The details of this rite as observed in Egypt are summarized in "the ordinance of the Passover" (Ex. xii. 43 et seq.). No bone was to be broken; the meal was to be eaten in one house; no alien could participate; circumcision was a prerequisite in the case of servants bought for money and of the stranger desiring to participate (Ex. xii. 44-48). According to Num. ix. 6, Levitical purity was another prerequisite. To enable such as happened to be in an unclean state through contact with the dead, or were away from home at the appointed season, to "offer the oblation of Yhwh," a second Passover was instituted on the fourteenth day of the second month (Num. ix. 9 et seq.). In Deut. xvi. 2, 5 the slaughtering and eating of the lamb appear to be restricted to the central sanctuary.

Cover for Maẓẓot.(From a drawing by Viefers.)Search for Leaven.(From a drawing by Picart, 1725.)

Glosses concerning the observance of Passover are not infrequent in the historical narratives. The keeping of the rite is first mentioned as having occurred at Sinai (Num. ix. 1 et seq.); under Joshua, at Gilgal (Josh. v. 10), another celebration of it is noticed. Hezekiah figures prominently in an account of the revival of the festival after a long period in which it was not observed (II Chron. xxx.). The reforms of Josiah brought about a new zeal in behalf of this institution, the Passover celebrated at his bidding in the eighteenth year of his reign being described as singular and memorable (II Kings xxiii. 21 et seq.). After the return from the Captivity (Ezra vi. 19 et seq.) another Passover observance is reported to have taken place in due conformity with the required laws of purity and in a most joyful spirit.

The sacrifices ordained for Passover are as follows: "an offering made by fire, a burnt offering; two young bullocks, and one ram, and seven he-lambs of the first year, without blemish, and their meal-offering, fine flour mingled with oil; . . . and one he-goat for a sin-offering, beside the burnt offering of the morning." These were to be offered daily for seven days (Num. xxviii. 16-25, Hebr.).

E. G. H.Penalties for Infringement. —In Rabbinical Literature:

For reasons well known (see Calendar; Festivals; Holy Days) Passover was extended to eight days, including the 22d of Nisan, and the 23d of Nisan came to be regarded as a semiholy day, an "issur la-ḥag," according to the interpretation of Ps. cxviii. 27 (Suk. 45b; Rashi, ad loc.). The Biblical injunctions concerning the eating of leaven and the like (see Biblical Data) were applied in conformity with the methods of rabbinical exegesis. The quantity of leaven which, if eaten deliberately ("be-zadon"), entailed the penalty of excision was fixed at "ke-zayit," an amount equal to that of an olive (Maimonides, "Yad," Ḥameẓ, i. 1; Ker. i.). For inadvertent violation of the prohibition the penalty was the regular sin-offering. The phrase "to eat" in the prohibition was construed to include any use of leaven as nourishment (by drinking, for instance). In fact, neither advantage nor enjoyment ("hana'ah") might be drawn from leaven during the festival ("Yad," l.c. i. 2). Hence, neglect to remove the leaven from one's "reshut" (domain or house) entailed punishment for the violation of two prohibitions (comp. Ex. xiii. 7). The penalty of stripes "min ha-Torah" was not enforced except where, during the festival week, one had purchased leaven or caused the process of fermentation for some definite purpose. Still, neglect to remove leaven rendered one liable to "makkat mardut" (see Corporal Punishment; also "Yad," l.c. i. 3). Leaven not removed could never after be utilized—this prohibition being deduced from the construction of the Biblical text by the Soferim ("mi-dibre soferim"), and it mattered not that the neglect was unintentional or even unavoidable (l.c. i. 4). Leaven mixed with anything else during Passover rendered the article unfit for use. In this case, however, an exception was made where the leaven belonged to an Israelite; though itself barred from use, it was not forbidden, after the festival, when combined with other things.

"Karet" was imposed for eating pure "ḥameẓ," but the eating of mixed "ḥameẓ" ("'erub ḥameẓ"), of which the Mishnah (Pes. iii. 1) gives instances (see "Yad," l.c. i. 6), entails flagellation, though this depended upon the quantity consumed and the proportion of the ḥameẓ (l.c.). The interdiction against eating or using ḥameẓ becomes operative at noon of the 14th of Nisan, but as a precaution the Rabbis set the limit an hour earlier (l.c. i. 9) and even advise refraining from eating leavened food after ten in the morning (l.c. i. 10).

Removal of Leaven.

The proper removal of ḥameẓ ("bi'ur ḥameẓ") constitutes one of the chief concerns of rabbinical law and practise. Great care is enjoined in the inspection and cleaning of all possible nooks and corners, lest ḥameẓ be overlooked. The night preceding the 14th of Nisan was especially set apart for this inspection by candle-light or lamplight, not by moonlight, though it was not necessary to examine by candle-light places that were open to the sunlight. Study was suspended in favor of this duty of inspecting holes and corners. Minute regulations were devised for the inspection of holes midway between houses, but precautions were taken not to arouse suspicions of witchcraft in the minds of non-Jewish neighbors. Certain places, where the likelihood of finding ḥameẓ was infinitesimal, were exempt (see "Yad," l.c. ii.).

Cloth Used for Covering Passover Dish.(In the possession of Von Wilmersdörffer, Munich.)Seder Feast and Accompanying Passover Preparations.'(From Bodenschatz, "Kirchliche Verfassung," 1748.)

In practise this "bediḳat ḥameẓ" was effected as follows: As soon as night (on the 13th) had completely set in, the father of the household ("ba'al ha-bayit") lighted a plain wax taper, took a spoon and a brush, or three or four entire feathers, and, after having deposited a piece of bread in some noticeable place, as on a window-sill, to mark the beginning of the search, made the complete round of the house and gathered up all the leavened bread that was in it. Coming to the window-sill where the piece of bread was deposited, he carefully put it into the spoon, leaving no crums on the sill, and pronounced this benediction: "Blessed be Thou . . . who hast commanded us to remove the leaven." Then he added an Aramaic formula: "All leaven which perchance remains in my domain and which has escaped my observation shall be destroyed and be like unto the dust of the earth." Then the spoon and brush were tied into a bundle and suspended over the lamp in the room, or elsewhere, but so that mice could not get at it. Next morning, if the bundle was found untouched, it was not necessary to go through the same process; otherwise the inspection was repeated. The bundle and its contents were either sold or burned before six o'clock in the evening; only so much leaven was retained as would be needed up to ten in the morning (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 431; Pes. i.). This "investigation" was transferred to the eve of Sabbath when the 14th of Nisan coincided with the Sabbath.

Certain precautions were taken in the disposal by burning of the "terumah" (priestly portion). Neglect to inspect one's house at the proper time could be remedied by inspection later, even during the festival itself, or after its close, provided no benefit were derived from the ḥameẓ (for further details see "Yad," l.c. iii., iv.).

While regarding only five kinds of produce (two of wheat and three of barley) as ḥameẓ, rabbinical law is very careful to establish precautionary provisions lest the interdiction of ḥameẓ be violated, and with this in view culinary freedom is much restricted. Even the dishes and cooking-utensils are objects of special attention for this reason, and among the preparations made for the proper observance of the festival the "cleansing of the dishes" (= "hag'alat kelim") two or three days in advance is not the least important; a complete set of tableware and kitchen utensils is, as a rule, kept in readiness to take the place of those in use during the rest of the year.

The eating of maẓẓot is considered as a positive command for the first night of the festival ("Yad," l.c. vi. 1). A quantity equal to that of an olive is deemed sufficient to discharge this mandatory obligation. Intention ("kawwanah") is not essential; the fact that maẓẓah was eaten is sufficient. Still, certain limitations developed concerning the manner of preparing food containing maẓẓah when it was intended to be eaten in fulfilment of the obligation.

Recital of the Haggadah.

The Rabbis also regarded it as a positive duty on the first night to relate the miracles incidental to Israel's deliverance from Egypt; hence the Haggadah and the Seder. Each Israelite was obliged to drink on this night four cups of wine ("arba'ah kosot"); red wine was excluded later owing to the Blood Accusation. While eating the maẓẓah and drinking the wine, the position of free men (i.e., reclining on the left side against cushions) was obligatory on all male participants ("hasibah"). The benedictions over the several cups were specified. "Ḥarosat" also was compulsory, "mi-dibre soferim," for this meal. Maimonides ("Yad," l.c. vii. 11) gives the recipe for its preparation; but the bitter herbs were not regarded as obligatory by themselves; they formed a part of the Passover meal. The practise of eating bitter herbs now, though the paschal lamb is no longer prepared, is characterized as an institution of the scribes. "Afiḳomen," usually a dessert of sweet ingredients, was excluded from this meal (Pes. x. 8), its place being taken by a piece of the maẓẓah, which, as such, is familiar in Jewish folk-lore and proverbs.

Passover Plate of the Seventeenth Century.(In the Kunstgewerbe-Museum, Düsseldorf.)

The Fast of the First-Born, in commemoration of the escape of the Hebrew first-born in Egypt, occurs on the 14th of Nisan. The chief of the house-hold may take the place of the minor son, or fastvoluntarily in case there be none in the family subject to the obligation.

Paschal Lamb.

The Passover lamb was killed, in the time of the Second Temple, in the court where all other "ḳodashim" were slaughtered, in keeping with the Deuteronomic prescription, and it was incumbent upon every man and woman to fulfil this obligation. The time "between the two evenings" ("ben ha-'arbayim") was construed to mean "after noon and until nightfall," the killing of the lamb following immediately upon that of the "tamid," the burning of the incense, and the setting in order of the lamps, according to daily routine. The killing was done with great caution, to avoid contact with ḥameẓ. After the carcass had been properly prepared, and the blood properly disposed of, it was taken home by its owner and roasted and eaten at eventide. The owners of the lambs were divided into three sets ("kittot") of at least thirty each, and during the slaughtering never less than thirty could be present in the courtyard. When the first group had entered the courtyard the doors were closed, and while the Levites sang the "Hallel" the lambs were killed, the psalms being sung, if necessary, three times.

The Ḥaburah.

In prescribed order the trumpets were blown, while the priests stood ready with gold and silver utensils to sprinkle the blood. The vessel was passed from one to the other that many might have a part in the meritorious act, until it reached the priest nearest the altar. The empty pan was returned. Then the carcasses were suspended on iron hooks along the walls and columns, or even on poles, shouldered between two men; the excrement was removed and the proper parts salted and incensed on the altar. The doors were then reopened, and, the first group departing, the second was admitted, and next the third, after which the court was cleansed. This order was observed even when the 14th fell on a Sabbath; but in that case the several groups would wait at certain stations in the Temple until the Sabbath was over before proceeding homeward. The lamb represented a "ḥaburah" (company); for single individuals it was not to be killed except in extraordinary cases. All members of the ḥaburah were to be in a state to eat at least "ke-zayit" (the equivalent of an olive). In the composition of the ḥaburah care was taken to avoid provoking levity; for instance, the sexes were kept apart. The members of the ḥaburah complied with the conditions, regarding purity, circumcision, etc., prescribed for partaking of the paschal lamb. Not only must the personal status of the owner be conformable to the law, but his ownership also must be beyond doubt; the lamb must be slaughtered on his account, and in accordance with the Biblical prescriptions and the Temple ordinances (see "Yad," Ḳorban Pesaḥ, iii. and iv.).

Passover and Sabbath.

Precautions were taken against defilement by contact with the dead. For this purpose, before Passover, the graves were whited. In fact, the whole of the preceding month was devoted to setting things in order with a view to facilitating the coming of the pilgrims to Jerusalem and to deciding judicial questions (Yer. Sheḳ. iii.). The usual sacrifices and the additional offerings were performed during this holy day. As stated above, later rabbinical practise was based on the principle that the Passover suspended the Sabbath law. But this question has an important bearing on the problem of reconciling the data in the Synoptics with those in John, and both with rabbinical law, with reference to the day of Jesus' death. Chwolson ("Das Letzte Passamahl Christi und der Tag Seines Todes," p. 31, St. Petersburg, 1892) contends that in the time of Jesus this was not yet a universally recognized canon, and that this would account for the discrepancy due to Jesus' slaughter of the paschal lamb on the eve of the 13th of Nisan. Chwolson's theory has not been generally accepted. The Samaritans and the Karaites slaughter the Passover lamb not earlier than about one hour and a half before dark.

According to the Samaritans, the offering can take place only on Mount Gerizim (see Aaron ben Elijah, "Gan 'Eden," Eupatoria, 1866, s.v. "Inyan Pesaḥ"; Geiger, in "Z. D. M. G." xx. 532-545; Ibrahim ibn Jacob, "Das Festgesetz der Samaritaner," ed. Dr. Hanover, Berlin, 1904). The Samaritans consider the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread as two distinct festivals. The Sabbath is not suspended by the Pesaḥ offering (ib. p. 24). The custom among the Karaites corresponds to that of the Samaritans (see Judah Hadassi, "Eshkol ha-Kofer," § 202). On the 15th of Nisan, which is the "ḥag ha-maẓẓot" ("ḥaj al-faṭir"), no manner of work is permitted by the Samaritans, even cooking being prohibited; in this they are stricter than the Karaites, who permit the preparation of food (Aaron ben Elijah, ib. s.v. "Inyan Ḥag ha-Maẓẓot"). Processions are arranged on Mount Gerizim on this holy day (Petermann, "Reisen im Orient," i. 287; see also "Jour. Bib. Lit.," 1903). The 'Omer day does not fall on the second day (16th of Nisan), but on the Sunday after the Sabbath in the festival week.

E. C. E. G. H.—Critical View:

Comparison of the successive strata of the Pentateuchal laws bearing on the festival makes it plain that the institution, as developed, is really of a composite character. Two festivals, originally distinct, have become merged, their underlying ideas reappearing both in the legend associated with the holy day as its assumed historical setting and occasion, and in the ritual. The name must be taken to be derived from that meaning of the root which designates the "skipping," "dancing" motions of a young lamb (Toy, in "Jour. Bib. Lit." 1897), only secondarily connoting "passing over" in the sense of "sparing." Pesaḥ, thus explained, is connected with pastoral life; it is the festival celebrated in early spring by the shepherds before setting out for the new pastures. In the ordinance of Ex. xii. the primitive manner of preparing the lamb for the family feast is still apparent. Such a family feast, naturally, was in the nature of a sacrifice, the gods of the clan being supposed to partake of it as well as the human members. There is a strong presumption that the skipping motions of the lamb were imitated by the participants, who in this wise "danced" around the sacrificial offering,and that this explains the designation of both the feast and the lamb.

Feast of First-Born.

There is good ground for the theory of Dozy ("Die Israeliten zu Mekka," Leyden, 1869) that the rites of the Arabian haj recall those of this old Israelitish "ḥag," though the inference drawn from this resemblance, that the Meccan celebration had been imported from Israel by the tribe of Simeon, must be rejected. The lamb served, however, the purpose of propitiating the gods and securing the prosperity of the flock about to depart for the pasture. Wellhausen's surmise that the lamb was a firstling, though not borne out by the Biblical data, seems to throw light on the connection, apparently very primitive, between the festival and the escape of the first-born and their subsequent devotion to Yhwh (Ex. xii., xiii.). The first-born of the flock (and even of men) was offered that the lives of those born later might be safe.

Hence the ceremony came naturally to be associated with the intention of "saving," and then with the fact of having "spared," from which secondary meaning of the root came the tradition that the Hebrews' first-born had been "spared" in Egypt, God "passing over" their houses. The sprinkling of the blood points in the same direction. This was a feature accompanying every propitiatory slaughtering (see Samuel Ives Curtis, "Ursemitische Religion," p. 259, Leipsic, 1903). It is suggested that when later the tendency became dominant to give old festivals historical associations—a tendency clearly traceable in the evolution of the Biblical holy days—this very primitive practise was explained by a reference to the occurrence in Egypt during the "night of watching"—another expression which plainly refers to the night preceding the day of the flock's departure, and which, as such, was marked by a proper ritual. It has been urged that the term "night of watching" points to a custom similar to that which prevails in Germany, where the night before Easter is set apart for seeing the sun "jump" or "dance," as it is called; it is more likely, however, that the phrase has reference to the moon's phases.

Connected with Maẓẓot.

This pastoral Pesaḥ was originally distinct from the Maẓẓot festival, but it merged all the more readily with it because both occurred in the spring, about the time of the vernal equinox. The Maẓẓot feast is distinctly agricultural, the maẓẓot cakes being both the natural offering from the newly gathered barley to the gods that had allowed the crop to ripen, and then the staple food of the harvesters. Offering and food are nearly always identical in the concepts and practises of primitive races. The difficulty of finding an adequate historical explanation for the maẓẓot is apparent even in the account of Ex. xii., which would make them emblematic of the hurry of the deliverance from Egypt, though it was the supposition that the maẓẓot had been used at the Passover meal before the Exodus.

The agricultural character of the Passover (or Maẓẓot) festival is evidenced by the fact that it is one of the three pilgrim, or season, festivals. Of course, when the pastoral Pesaḥ and the agricultural Maẓẓot came to be merged can not be determined definitely, but one is safe in saying that it must have been shortly after the occupation of Palestine, the tradition about the Pesaḥ observed by Joshua at Gilgal (see Biblical Data) suggesting and confirming this assumption.

The relation of circumcision to Pesaḥ is explained when the original pastoral and propitiatory character of the latter is remembered. The pastoral clan would naturally exclude all that were not of the clan from the meal at which it trysted with its protecting god (that being the original significance of every solemn meal) and disarmed his jealousy. Circumcision itself was a rite of propitiation, like the lamb at Pesaḥ, possibly a substitute for human sacrifice. (See the legend of Cain and Abel for the bearing of the lamb, and that of Zipporah's sons for the bearing of circumcision, on human sacrifice.) A good case may be made out in favor of the theory that, for this reason, Pesaḥ was at one time the festival of the circumcision, all that had attained the proper age during the year being circumcised on one and the same day, namely, at Pesaḥ; the puzzling question why the lamb had to be set aside on the tenth finds in this its explanation. Three to four days were required to heal the wound of circumcision (see Josh. v. 8; Gen. xxxiv. 25), and the designation of maẓẓot as the "bread of affliction" (Deut. xvi. 3) may possibly carry some allusion to this custom.

Passover Dish.(In the possession of E. A. Franklin, London.)

The law of the second Pesaḥ (Num. ix. 6) reflects the unsettled relations which the pastoral Pesaḥ originally bore to the agricultural harvest festival, the two, apparently, not being at first simultaneous.

(In the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.) Passover Plates. (In the United States National Museum, Washington, D. C.)

The legal as well as the historical sources agree in assigning to this Pesaḥ = Maẓẓot festival a Mosaic (or a very remote) origin. In the Book of the Covenant "Pesaḥ" does not occur, "Maẓẓot" being used as it is in Ex. xxxiv. (verse 18), where "Pesaḥ" is named only in verse 25. Both the J-E (Jahvist-Elohist) and the P (Priestly) narratives emphasize the historical prominence of the day. It is J-E that explains maẓẓot as due to the haste of the departure (Ex. xii. 34, 39), while P presupposes their use at the meal in Egypt (Ex. xii. 8, 15-20). The Deuteronomist (D) seems to follow J-E in calling maẓẓot "the bread of affliction." According to the Book of the Covenant (Ex. xxiii. 15, xxxiv. 20), Pesaḥ is one of the three pilgrim festivals. The sacrifices to be offered by the community are mentioned only in II (the Holiness code; Lev. xxiii. 8) and P (Num. xxviii. 19). D insists that the Pesaḥ must be slaughtered at the central sanctuary (Deut. xvi.). D (Deut. xvi. 8) and the Book of the Covenant (Ex. xiii. 6) mention only the seventh day of Maẓẓot as a holy day. H (Lev. xxiii. 7) and P (Ex. xii. 16; Num. xxviii. 18, 25) make the first and the seventh day holy days. Ezekiel's scheme (Ezek. xlv. 21 et seq.) provides sacrifices different from those prescribed in P.

  • For the analysis of the Pentateuchal texts see Wellhausen, Die Composition des Hexateuchs:
  • Kuenen, Einleitung;
  • and the commentaries. Comp. F. C. Baur, in Theologische Zeitschrift, 1832;
  • Ewald, in Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, iii. 424 et seq.;
  • Vatke, Religion des Alten Testaments, pp. 492 et seq.;
  • Lengerke, Kanaan, i. 381;
  • Nowack, Archäologie, ii. 148 et seq.;
  • Kurtz, Der Alttestamentliche Opferkultus, 1862;
  • Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 1899;
  • Riedel, in Stade's Zeitschrift, 1900;
  • R. Schaefer, Das Mazzotfest, Güterslohe, 1900;
  • S. A. Fries, Die Gesetzesschrift des Königs Josia, Leipsic, 1903.
E. G. H.