Passover is one of the most important Jewish festivals, which is celebrated with great vigor and enthusiasm all over the world. Religious practices and sanctimonious observances are found everywhere. An eight-day festival, Pesach involves the presence of many Hebrew words that are specific to the festival. Right from the foods that are eaten on the Passover Seder to the rituals practiced, these words are commonly used among Jews. So, in order to be conversant with the Jewish history, tradition and culture, one has to first be well versed with the basic Hebrew terminology. In the following lines, we have provided a glossary that contains all the major terms that are used in the Pesach festival, to make the celebration even more enticing and meaningful.
Passover Festival Glossary
The term usually stands for ‘dessert’ in Aramaic. Mostly at the start of Seder, the center of the matzah is broken into three pieces and the largest piece, which is afikoman, is hidden. The Seder concludes with the eating of the afikoman.
Baytzah is the term given to the hard-boiled egg that is placed on the Seder plate. The egg is symbolic of the regular festival sacrifice brought in the days of the Temple. After the destruction of the Temple, egg became a symbol of this loss and traditionally, became the food of mourners.
Bidikat chametz stands for ‘Search for Leaven’ in Hebrew. Usually, the night before the Passover Seder, the whole house is searched for any leavened grain products. Whatever grain is found is burned the next morning.
Chametz is the term given to leavened grain products. According to the Torah, during the week of Passover, neither chametz, which is the result of grain that ferments, nor se'or, the highly fermented sourdough that is used to make another dough ferment, should be visible within the boundary of the house.
A mixture of apples, nuts, wine and spices is known as charoset. Charoset is usually kept on the Seder plate, as a reminiscent of the mortar the Jewish slaves used in the building they made for the Egyptians.
The Seder Plate is usually filled with bitter vegetable, like lettuce or celery, as a reminder of the bitter lives of the Israelites as slaves. These bitter vegetables are referred to as Chazeret.
Elijah was the Prophet who conveyed the messages from the God. According to popular belief, it is said that Prophet Elijah never really died. In fact, it is assumed that he was taken to heaven in a flaming chariot and that he continues to deliver messages even today.
The term Exodus usually stands for the ‘leaving of a great number of people’. In Passover, the term is used in the context of Jewish People coming out of Egypt in hordes, to escape the slavery.
The term Haggadah refers to ‘telling’. Passover Haggadah is a book, which contains blessings, questions and answers, the story of the exodus and songs. The festival can never be fully complete without reading the Haggadah.
Karpas is the term given to the vegetable, essentially parsley or potato, placed on the Seder plate. According to the tradition, before eating, the vegetable is dipped in salt water, to represent the tears of enslaved Jewish ancestors.
The word Kiddush stands for sanctification in Hebrew. It is actually a special blessing over wine that is recited on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
Maror refers to the bitter herbs that are placed on the Seder plate, as a reminder of the bitterness in the lives of the Israelites, during the time of their enslavement in Egypt.
Matzah is a term given to the flat, dry, unleavened bread. As per record, when Israelites left Egypt, they did not have time to wait for their dough to rise. So, they ate unleavened bread and left. In Passover Seder, matzah serves as a reminder of the exodus of the Jewish slaves from Egypt.
Seder refers to ‘order’ or organization. During the Passover Seder, Jews follow a certain order, wherein they recite blessings, tell of the story of the exodus, eat and sing songs. All these activities are done in a particular order.
Zeroah is the term given to the shankbone or neck of poultry, which is roasted and put on the Seder plate. The zeroah not only acts as a reminder of the ‘mighty arm of God’, but also is symbolical of the lamb offered as the Passover sacrifice in Temple days.