Grade level(s): 5th
Author: Rebecca N. Smith
Passover is a holiday celebrated in the Jewish religion. It begins in March or April, on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. The Passover recalls the exodus of the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt. It also celebrates springtime, a time of renewal and rebirth. Passover lasts seven to eight days, depending on where you live and how religious you are. The emphasis is on the first two days. Celebrations differ slightly depending on national and family customs. In general, all Jewish families follow the pattern in the Haggadah. The Haggadah is a book or program for the Passover ceremony, which tells the history of the Passover through prayers, stories, and songs. The traditional Haggadah is at least 1,000 years old. There are more than 3,000 editions of the Haggadah to choose from. The changes and additions to the traditional Haggadah reflect the history of the times and people.
The Passover story begins over 3,000 years ago. The Jews lived in
Egypt for many generations. The Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, became
worried that the Jews would take over his people and his power. To
avoid this, he made the Jews slaves and forced them to build Egyptian
temples and cities. This occurred for many generations. Close to the
end of the fourteenth century B.C., Moses, a leader of the Jews,
asked the Pharaoh to free the Jews. The Pharaoh would not do so.
Moses then told the Pharaoh that ten plagues would fall upon the
Egyptian people if the Pharaoh would not cooperate. The Pharaoh would
still not do so, and the plagues began. First, the water was turned
to blood. Second, frogs covered the land. Third, the dust became lice
and the air was filled with insects. Fourth, wild beasts frightened
the Egyptians. Fifth, all the cattle, horses, and camels became sick
with disease and died. Sixth, the Egyptians broke out in sores and
boils on their skin. Seventh, fiery hail, thunder, and lightening
fell from the skies, killing all living things that were left
outdoors. Eighth, swarms of locusts destroyed the crops. Ninth,
darkness spread over Egypt for three complete days. The final plague
was that all of the firstborn children and animals in Egypt would
die. The Jews were instructed by Moses to mark their doors with the
blood of the paschal lamb which had been offered as a sacrifice. This
would be a sign to the "Angel of Death" to pass over their homes.
Hence the name for the celebration "Passover."
When the tenth plague hit Egypt, the Pharaoh was devastated. It
hit the Egyptians but passed over the Jews. The Pharaoh did not want
anything further to happen, so he called for Moses and told him to
leave with the Jews immediately. The Jews left quickly. The next day,
the Pharaoh rethought his decision to free the Jews and sent soldiers
to chase after them and return them to Egypt and slavery. The Jews
had to escape, but the Red Sea was in the way. Suddenly the sea was
parted, leaving two walls of water with dry land for them to walk in
between. When the Egyptian army tried to follow, the walls of water
came together again to form the Red Sea. The Jews were able to escape
from the hands of the Egyptians.
Passover is celebrated as a reminder of what the Jewish ancestors
went through to obtain freedom. The night before the Passover begins,
there is a ceremony for the children. During the Passover, people may
only eat unleavened bread, to remind them that the Jews in ancient
times had to flee from Egypt in such haste that there was not time to
allow the bread to rise. The night before Passover begins, there is a
"Search for Leaven." In a darkened house, everyone searches for bread
and bread crumbs using flashlights or candles. They use a feather to
sweep up the crumb, a wooden spoon to catch the crumb, and a paper
bag to hold them. The next morning, they search again to assure that
there is no bread in the house. Upon accomplishing this, the feather,
spoon, and paper bag are burned.
On the first day of Passover, the Seder occurs. This is a symbolic
dinner where the story of the Passover is told. There are
fourteen steps in the Seder, using the Haggadah as a
1. Singing blessings over the first cup of wine.
2. Washing hands
3. Dipping a vegetable in salt water.
4. Breaking the middle Matzah and hiding the Afikoman.
5. Telling the Passover story, including asking the four questions, describing the four children, and drinking the second cup of wine.
6. Washing the hands before the meal.
7. Saying the blessings for Matzah.
8. Tasting the bitter herbs and dipping them in Haroset.
9. Eating a Matzah and bitter herb sandwich.
10. Enjoying the Festival meal.
11. Finding and eating the Afikoman.
12. Singing the blessings after the meal, drinking the third cup of wine, and opening the door for the prophet Elijah.
13. Singing Psalms of praise and drinking the fourth cup of wine.
14. Completing the Seder with traditional songs.
The table is set very symbolically. It has a large plate in the
center that holds some unusual foods, foods that are symbolic of the
Passover story. There are two kinds of Maror (bitter herbs -
horseradish and romaine lettuce), Haroset (an apple and nut mixture),
Zeroah (a roasted bone), Baitzah (a roasted egg), and Karpas (fresh
greens - usually parsley, celery, or lettuce). In addition to these
foods on the plate, there are three matzot (plural for matzah) that
are covered, a bowl of salt water, wine cups for everyone, as well as
a big and beautiful wine cup for Elijah the Prophet.
The four questions that a child asks in the telling of the
1. Why is this night different from all other nights? (Because on other nights we eat matzah and bread, but on this night we eat only matzah.)
2. Why on all other nights do we eat many herbs and on this night only bitter herbs? (To recall the bitter lives of our ancestors, who were slaves in Egypt.)
3. Why on all other nights do we dip our food only once, and twice on this night? (It is our custom to dip on other nights. We dip a second time to remember that our ancestors dipped a leafy branch to smear lamb's blood on their doorposts.)
4. Why on all other nights do we sit up to eat, but recline on this night? (Because free people reclined in ancient times, and our ancestors became free on this night.)
The four children are:
1. The wise child asks - "What are all the laws God has given you about Passover?"
2. The wicked child asks - "Why do you bother with this Seder?"
3. The innocent child asks - "What is this talking about?"
4. The child who does not know how to ask a question does not say anything. Instead the leader starts the discussion by saying "We celebrate Passover because of what God did for us when we left Egypt."
The Seder is the highlight and focus of the Passover. It is a ceremonial feast during which the Passover story is retold, and family and friends again learn about the meaning of freedom. In the teaching of Passover, this is where much of the emphasis will be.
Chaikin, M. (1985). Ask another question: The story and meaning of Passover. New York, NY: Clarion Books.
Goldin, B. (1994). The Passover journey: A Seder companion. New York, NY: The Penguin Group.
Hollander, T. (1995). USENET cookbook: Matzo rolls. [On-line]. Available: ftp://sunsite.unc.edu/pub/academic/languages/yiddish/recipes/matzo-rolls.
Neusner, J. (1987). Passover. The world book encyclopedia, volume 15, p. 191. Chicago, IL: World Book, Inc.
Swartz, L. (1992). A first Passover. Boston, MA: The Children's Museum.
Wohl, L. (1991). Matzoh mouse. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
- Students will recognize that religions have celebrations unique
- Students will recognize that a history of events may be shared and reinforced through celebrations.
- Students will demonstrate their understanding of the background of Passover.
- Students will demonstrate their understanding of the Seder.
5 class periods plus homework
- Passover folders
- World map
- list of terms, definitions, and pronunciation guide
- questions for the numbered heads activity
- book, Matzoh Mouse by Lauren L. Wohl
- recipe for Matzo-rolls
A. Mini-lecture. Introduce Passover. Explain that just as different countries have their own holidays, so do different religions. Explain that Passover is a holiday celebrated as part of the Jewish religion. It is seven to eight days long, with the emphasis on the first two days. It is celebrated in March/ April, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. Introduce the terms, definitions, and pronunciation guide (see appendix). Show the class where Egypt and the Red Sea are on the world map so they know where in the world this is taking place. Discuss the background of the Passover (see background information). Explain about Moses and the plagues.
B. Numbered Heads Activity. With the information
presented in class in the mini-lecture the students will participate
in this activity. Split the class up into 6 groups (or whatever is
necessary to have 4 in each group). When they are in these groups,
have them number off in these groups 1 - 4. Hand out the questions to
be answered by the group. Ask the students to work together in their
group to make sure that everyone knows the answers and can explain
them without looking at their notes. Allow the groups time to
prepare. When you are ready to start, call out a number. The student
in the group with that number will answer the question for the team.
They are to answer in writing and turn it in. Continue until all of
the questions are answered. Talk with the class after. Discuss the
answers. Clarify if necessary. How did they make sure that everyone
knew the answers?
C. Literature extension. Read the book Matzoh
Mouse with the students. Discuss the story, especially the steps
of the Seder. Identify the 14 steps of Seder on the board. Give the
students a copy of the illustration of the Seder plate (see appendix)
and have them put it in their Passover Folders. Have the students
identify the 14 steps of the Seder. Explain in more detail what the
steps are (see background information and the appendix).
D. Hands-on. Bring in matzo-rolls for the students
(see recipe in appendix). Have each student taste them. Give each
student a copy of the recipe to put in their Passover folder. Have a
discussion about the taste and appearance of the rolls. What is the
difference between these rolls and the bread that we are accustomed
to? Discuss why unleavened bread is used during the time of Passover
(see background information).
E. Open Discussion. After all of the previous
activities are completed, and before the exam is given, gather the
class and have them respond to the following questions, "What do you
know about the background of the Passover? What is the Seder for?
What are some of the steps in the Seder? Why is unleavened bread
used?", etc. This discussion will be used as a review for the
F. Exam. Have the students complete the exam (see
appendix). This will allow the teacher to assess the understanding of
G. A possible calender for the mini-unit.
Day 1 - Activity A
Day 2 - Activity B
Day 3 - Activity C
Day 4 - Activity D
Day 5 - Activities E and F
- The completed Passover folder will be assessed.
- The numbered heads responses will be assessed.
- Exam at the end of the mini-unit will be assessed.
- Responses during the discussion will be assessed.
A. Passover folders
Obtain a file folder for each student. Have them put their name and title of the unit on the folder. This is where all notes, assignments, and information about the unit will be kept. The following information should be included in the folder:
2. Numbered heads questions and answers
3. Steps of Seder
4. Terms, definitions, and pronunciation guide
5. Matzo-rolls recipe
6. Illustration of the Seder plate
B. Terms, definitions, and pronunciation guide
Afikoman (a-fee-KO-man): The broken piece of the middle
matzah, which is wrapped up, hidden, and later searched for by the
children. A piece of the Afikoman is eaten at the end of the Seder
Baitzah (bay-TZAH): The roasted egg on the Seder plate,
which represents the festival offering in the ancient Temple. It is
also a symbol of springtime.
Haggadah (ha-ga-DAH): The book that serves as a guide to
conducting the Seder. It explains the symbols on the Seder table and
tells the story of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The story is
embellished with commentary, song, and praises.
Haroset (kha-RO-set): A mixture, most often of apples,
nuts, wine, and cinnamon, that reminds Seder participants of the
bricks and mortar the Jews used to build the Pharaoh's cities.
Matzah (MA-tzah): The flat, unleavened bread the Jews ate
while they were slaves in Egypt and on the night they fled from
Pharaoh (FAIR-o): The title of the ancient Egyptian
Seder (SAY-der): The special dinner held on the first two
nights of Passover. The word means "order" and specifically refers to
the order of the ceremony on those two nights.
Zeroah (ze-ro-AH): The roasted shank bone on the Seder
plate, which is a symbol of the lamb the Jews roasted and ate on the
night they left Egypt.
C. Numbered Heads Activity
1. Why did the Jews want to leave Egypt?
2. Where did the Passover get its name?
3. Why is Passover celebrated?
4. What are the plagues that hit Egypt?
5. Why was the Pharaoh worried?
In your own words, explain the background of the Passover.
Name at least nine of the fourteen steps of the Seder.
Why is the Seder an important part of Passover?
Why is unleavened bread used during Passover? What does it represent?
Matzo meal is available at the "Matzah Market." You can contact
them at http://www.marketnet.com/mktnet/kosher/main.html#catalog
A one pound box is available for $2.75
Passover Rolls - Matzo Rolls
2 cups Matzah meal
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup peanut oil
1. Combine matzah meal with salt and sugar.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring oil and water to a boil.
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the matzah meal, mixing well.
4. Beat in the eggs thoroughly, one at a time (this is where it starts to get sticky). Let the mixture stand for about 15 minutes (can be refrigerated).
5. With well-oiled hands, shape it into rolls and place on a well-greased cookie sheet (you will have to keep re-oiling your hands).
6. Bake in a preheated 375 deg. F oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown.
35 minutes preparation, 50 minutes cooking
F. Information on the fourteen steps of the
This information is taken from the book The Passover Journey: A Seder Companion, by Barbara Diamond Goldin, pages 28-47.
1. Singing blessings over the first cup of wine. We sing the
blessing over the wine or grape juice, lean to the left side, and
drink the first cup. The leaning reminds us that in ancient times,
only free people could eat the way we do at our Seder, taking our
2. Washing hands. Next we wash our hands without saying a
blessing. This washing is not the washing of hands before eating.
This washing is a symbolic one to remind us of the rituals that go
back to the days of the Temple in Jerusalem
3. Dipping a vegetable in salt water. Now we dip a green
vegetable, such as parsley or lettuce, into salt water. The salt
water reminds us of the tears of the slaves; the greens make us think
4. Breaking the middle matzah and hiding the Afikoman. The
Afikoman "disappears" during this time and is hidden. It will be
searched for following the meal.
5. Telling the Passover story, including asking the four
questions, describing the four children, and drinking the second cup
of wine. For this information, see the background information.
6. Washing the hands before the meal. We wash our hands and say
the blessing in preparation for the meal.
7. Saying the blessings for matzah. One is a blessing that is said
all year for bread, and the other is said especially for matzah.
8. Tasting the bitter herbs and dipping them in haroset. You dip
the maror into the haroset. This is too remember the bitter taste of
slavery, and the hope of freedom.
9. Eating a matzah and bitter herb sandwich. Think of tasting
freedom and slavery together. Think of the bitterness and the joy of
the Passover story.
10. Enjoying the festival meal. The actual meal is eaten.
11. Finding and eating the Afikoman. It's time to hunt for the
hidden Afikoman. Think of the slaves and the poor people who have so
little to eat that they often put some of their food away to save for
12. Singing the blessings after the meal, drinking the third cup
of wine, and opening the door for the prophet Elijah. Everyone
relaxes and give thanks for the food, holy laws, and freedom. The
door is opened, inviting the ancient prophet Elijah to join the
13. Singing Psalms of praise and drinking the fourth cup of wine.
We sing psalms to God in praise for His help.
14. Completing the Seder with traditional songs. While you sing the traditional songs, think of the journey that has occurred tonight during the Seder. Look at the table and remember the symbols.
G. The Seder plate
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