April 18th, 2011
09:50 AM ET

Let my people go: Understanding the Passover Seder

CNN.com Religion Editor Dan Gilgoff explains the Jewish festival of Passover, which starts at sundown Monday and commemorates the Israelites' liberation from slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago.

Watch the video above to learn more about the Seder - the meal in which the story of Exodus is told - and the various symbols used during the holiday, including matzo (unleavened bread), bitter herbs, salt water and a lamb shank bone.

We'd like to hear from you: Tell us how you're celebrating Passover this year. Are you doing anything different at your Seder?

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Food • Holidays • Judaism • Moses

soundoff (326 Responses)
  1. Bob

    It seems that those with religious hatred have more time to post on the blogs.

    April 18, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • aceofclubs42

      Or more and more people have religious hatred these days

      April 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Evy

      It's not that more people "seemingly" have more time to post about their disdain for religion, it's that more and more people are waking up to realize that religion (IN ALL FORMS) is the root of all evil. They say money is, but i have to disagree and say it's religion that should take the fall!!

      April 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Entil'zha

      "that religion (IN ALL FORMS) is the root of all evil."

      Wow...that is an unproven opinion if I ever saw one.

      April 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Evy

      Actually, what is unproven is how religion has done society any good...except control, deceive, and destroy humanity. Only the weak-minded give in to such blatant falsehood!

      April 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Entil'zha

      But yet you seem to believe in an absolute, that all religious ppl are weak minded. You do realize that is a fallacy right?

      More to the point, you are wrong to assume that ppl just believe in a blind manner. You are also making the assumption that religious ppl are bad at some level because of their belief. My gosh, you are full of bad logic today.

      April 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • M22

      evy: "Actually, what is unproven is how religion has done society any good...except control, deceive, and destroy humanity. Only the weak-minded give in to such blatant falsehood!"

      Yeah, because people are violent and deceitful only insofar as they're religious, not insofar as they're human.

      You're smart.

      April 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Evy

      @ Entil'zha....you said it for me! Religious nut-jobs are precisely weak-minded because they believe blindly by promoting a set of rules and ways of life prescribed by who or what? NOTHING. I know that a higher power must have put us here BUT we don't have to perpetuage ridicuolus dogma (yes i said ridiculous!) in order to prove a higher being(s) exist.

      April 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Entil'zha

      Yeah..I said it for you and I also said it was a fallacy. You do know what a fallacy is right?

      April 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  2. Kenneth Godfrey

    I noticed that Obama is attending the Sedor. Does this mean that Christians can/should take part? Maybe so, since its observance is included in the same Bible that Christians use (The Old Testement). But then again, he takes part in Islam events too. What is his religilion anyway? Believers should participate in events that relate to their religious beliefs only, otherwise they may not be true believers. The meal does look good though...

    April 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Godless

      I always knew Obama was a secret Jew! Or was that Muslim? No, wait, communist, that was it. Or was it socialist? Maybe it was Buddhist...

      April 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Person of Faith

      If a Christian is fortunate enough to be invited to a Passover seder, he or she should go. It's a good learning experience which commemorates events from the Old Testament/Torah. It's beneficial for both Christians and Jews.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  3. sami

    That is a damn sorry explanation of Passover. Oh well, I'm going to have a nice seder with my family and friends tonight. If anyone is really interested in learning what Passover is really about (which was not even touched on by the video) check out myjewishlearning.com. Happy Passover. Happy Easter too.

    April 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  4. Annas

    A good meal before we get ready to Kill the real Lamb of God.Mazel-Tov

    April 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Azekial

      "I can't tell if you are an idiot or a jerk."

      I would say you're being a jerk.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Artist

      Now that is funny right there

      April 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  5. Sue

    Goodness, why all the hatred? It's ok for Christians to talk about Christmas – no one bashes us for being Christian or having a holiday. But let a story about Passover be posted, and the attacks start flying.

    April 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Artist

      Sue, not sure if you are playing the jewish card but I haven't seen an anti jewish agenda here. Delusional is delusional regardless is you are jewish, muslim or chrisitan.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Person of Faith

      No one bashes us for celebrating Christmas, they just replace "Christmas" with "the Holidays," to try to stamp out as much Christian influence as possible.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Entil'zha

      It would be more fair to say that Christmas was put in it's current spot on the calendar due to a popular pagan holiday being around there, not that Christmas is based from a pagan holiday.

      April 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Spencer

      Erin – dude – think about this.

      The Prophet Jeremiah condemned as Pagan the ancient Middle Eastern practice of cutting down trees, bringing them into the home and decorating them. Of course, these were not really Christmas trees, because Jesus was not born until centuries later, and the use of Christmas trees was not introduced for many centuries after his birth. Apparently, in Jeremiah's time the "heathen" would cut down trees, carve or decorate them in the form of a god or goddess, and overlay it with precious metals. Some Christians currently feel that this Pagan practice was similar enough to our present use of Christmas trees that this passage from Jeremiah can be used to condemn both:

      Jeremiah 10:2-4: "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." (King James Version).

      Origins of the Christmas Tree:

      Pagan traditions: Many Pagan cultures used to cut boughs of evergreen trees in December, move them into the home or temple, and decorate them. 7 Modern-day Pagans still do. This was to recognize the winter solstice - the time of the year that had the shortest daylight hours, and longest night of the year. This occurs annually sometime between DEC-20 to 23; most often, it is DEC-21. As the solstice approached, they noticed that the days were gradually getting shorter; many feared that the sun would eventually disappear forever, and everyone would freeze. But, even though deciduous trees, bushes, and crops died or hibernated for the winter, the evergreen trees remained green. They seemed to have magical powers that enabled them to withstand the rigors of winter

      Not having evergreen trees, the ancient Egyptians considered the palm tree to symbolize resurrection. They decorated their homes with its branches during the winter solstice. 3

      "The first decorating of an evergreen tree began with the heathen Greeks and their worship of their god Adonia, who allegedly was brought back to life by the serpent Aessulapius after having been slain." 5

      The ancient Pagan Romans decorated their "trees with bits of metal and replicas of their god, Bacchus [a fertility god]. They also placed 12 candles on the tree in honor of their sun god" 2 Their mid-winter festival of Saturnalia started on DEC-17 and often lasted until a few days after the Solstice.

      In Northern Europe, the ancient Germanic people tied fruit and attached candles to evergreen tree branches, in honor of their god Woden. Trees were viewed as symbolizing eternal life. This is the deity after which Wednesday was named. The trees joined holly, mistletoe, the was-sail bowl and the Yule log as symbols of the season. All predated Christianity.

      April 18, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Lycidas

      ty Spencer for the greater detail on the subject. Very nice.

      April 18, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • civilioutside

      I'm guessing, Sue, that you weren't on this blog around Christmas time. Believe me, there was plenty of negative commentary about that tradition then. Ironically, you'll also find plenty of Christians posting about how they get picked on here but nobody ever says anything against Jewish/Muslim/pagan/etc. beliefs when that is also plainly not true.

      April 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • E

      oh please

      June 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • E

      come now did you really think you won?

      June 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • L


      June 29, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • E

      really just a huh?

      October 6, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • L

      yes..more than huh, I'm still here

      October 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Entil'za

      All is quiet still.

      January 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  6. Artist

    Ryan Richardson taking a second look I have to ask...are you just kidding around because if not, you are our of your mind LOL

    April 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Artist

      our...meant out

      April 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  7. Tone

    @Ryan-Mike let me say something about your comment on if GOD freed the Isrilites (which he did). You asked wouldin't GOD have put it on the Ten Commandments. Your not GOD, GOD knew why he put what he put on there.

    Because owning a persons life is apparently not as bad as taking another god before him?

    April 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm |

    We used to believe we were the center of the Universe and the world was flat – views held by the ignorant and then used by people in power as a means of control. God does not exist; it is a creation of man and the ignorant are still being lead to slaughter and killing their neighbor.

    April 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Godless


      April 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Person of Faith

      Psalm 14:1-7 (King James Version)

      Psalm 14
      1The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Erin

      "Psalm 14
      1The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."

      Prove that God said that.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Erin

      Lycidas, another great example of a Christian using circular reasoning with a small minded comment. LOL!

      April 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Entil'zha

      I don't see any circular reasoning in his question. He is stating a relevant question. If you deny that there is a God, you must therefor believe that a person created it. If a human created it, there must be some manner to be able to prove it with evidence. Isn't that what you are asking when you say, "Prove that God said that."

      He is just asking you to prove what you believe. Is that so hard?

      April 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  9. Jesparza

    I'm going to make me a juicy thick pork chop wrapped in bacon...yum!

    April 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Person of Faith

      Are you aware that pigs eat their own waste?

      April 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Spencer

      Are you aware that waste from animals is used through out the food chain, including that it gets into the water supply.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • civiloutside

      Are you aware that pigs only do so when confined without access to any cleaner food source? And that given enough space they will "go" well away from where they eat and sleep?

      April 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  10. Jonathan

    Regarding pyramid building: Exodus 1:11 says "...and they build storage cities for Pharaoh – Pithom and Raamses." Nowhere is there any mention of pyramids, so I don't know where people continue to get that idea from. The Jews didn't build the pyramids, but the Bible isn't claiming that they did, so it's a non-issue. Case solved.

    April 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Thank you, glad someone on here actually knows scripture.

      April 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  11. Common Sense

    Moses(Menses) the heretical priest leading the lepers from Egypt to the desert to sacrifice babies to Moloch?That's something to celebrate

    April 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Reflection

      @Lycidas: "it will be taken in and spat out like the garbage it is."

      Now, just WHO is being closed-minded?

      April 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Reflection- So you think the above comment made was a serious comment on the topic of Passover? You really think that?

      Hey, if CS really believes that..I am sorry. But I would like for them to cite where they got their thoughts from. Fair enough?

      April 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  12. The Truth

    Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said honour your mother and your father and he who speaks evil of father of mother is to be put to death. but you say whomever says to his father of mother whatever i have that i would help you have been given to God for the sake of your tradition. 'You hypocrites rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you. This people honours Me with their lips but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me. Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.

    April 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  13. Robert

    Awfully mean spirited discussion here. Reflection of the eternal truth: if your myth is dominant in society, woe unto ye that questions/mocks the dominant myth (any nasty comments here about Jesus? or Mohammed?, I don't think so).

    Remember, this is the 21st century, try to not be so vicious. Take a quick look outside your comfort zone and see what religious absolutism did for the previously centuries. Try to open your mind (or at the minimum, remember that blatant hypocrisy is graphically obvious). Don't be so quick to throw stones.

    April 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  14. Dot44

    Let my people go... HA... I bet the ancient Egyptians helped all they could.

    April 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  15. Dot44

    Jews did not build the pyramids or anything else. Nonsense holiday meant to steal other culture's accomplishments. So where are all the liberals and gays saying this religion is a total myth and a not 6,000 year old world ?

    April 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Lycidas

      No one said that the Hebrews built the Pyramids you dolt. And you are getting Christian literalism confused with how the Jewish ppl view the scriptures. Most are not literalists.

      April 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  16. aq

    The exodus is true. As proved in the Quran, which is the true unaltered word of God.

    April 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Serenade

      So something written in a book is proof of something writen in the same book? That's not very logical.. But hey.. the Quran also say's that freshwater and salt water don't mix.. and we all know that's pretty true.. ( Not true at all).

      April 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Person of Faith

      The Koran is not part of the canon of scripture.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • aq

      To Serenade,

      Your "attempted" interpretation of the verse and lack of understanding does nothing but confuse you. Besides, how you can you really understand know the truth if you are not open to it. I challenge you to open this book and read it with an open mind. If you are not willing and sincere to want the truth. The koran states all life is from water. Do you agree or disagree? Whether you agree or disagree will not help in proving the truth. You either believe or disbelieve. And, I'm sorry but I would rather choose the words of the Creator of the universe versus his creation to tell me what the truth is. And, guess what? We did not come from monkeys. That's right we are humans and did not evolve from chimps.

      And, yes God saved the children of Israel from the tyrant who was imposing many hardships and trials upon them.

      Why are you so afraid to accept the truth. Seriously, I wish you the best and hope and pray you are led out of darkness and into the light. Just open the book and read it with an open heart. Good cheers.

      April 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  17. qunicey9

    Jared and a 'host' of others, If you want to have dinner and tradition then go for it. The notion that there were plagues (any such instance has been EASILY scientifically proven as natural) visited upon Egypt by God is strictly farcical just as the notion of enslaved jews building the pyramids is (Actually proven to be false like Columbus discovering America. Didn't happen). Anyone who believes this sort of babble has seen too many movies and has the single digit IQ to believe them..

    April 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • JonQ

      Quincey: You're telling me that it's completely natural for every Egyptian first born male, both human and livestock, to be killed on the same night, while the Jewish first born are not, is completely natural and EASILY proven scientifically? I think you may need to check YOUR IQ...

      April 18, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • qunicey9

      Well, that's verbally proven. The scientific explanation is commonly referred to as "Hooey". Didn't happen. Historically (real history, Opey, not made up biblical history cr@p) and anthropologically unproven.

      April 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "as the notion of enslaved jews building the pyramids is"

      No one claims that and the Torah doesn't support it either.

      April 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • JonQ

      Egyptian (secular) history recounts the deaths as well... are they also lying because they desperately want you to believe in a false God?

      April 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "Egyptian (secular) history recounts the deaths as well.."

      Could you cite the sources plz.

      April 18, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • civiloutside

      It was my understanding that Egyptian history does *not* record the deaths of the firstborn, which is why so many apologist sites I've seen simply resort to saying "Well, they wouldn't have written about their defeats. They only wrote about their successes."

      April 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  18. happy hippie

    Since CNN won't post articles stating this. Religious freedom for temple 4/20, Rastaforians and Hindus. It is 2 days early but I celebrate the burning bush everyday, merry 4/20. To the worlds government, "Let my people toke", or suffer the wrath of Jah.


    April 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Erin

      happy hippie just ignore Lycidas for some reason they think their the moderator of these blogs. What a joke.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Cassie

      I think you've been around a few too many burning bushes, sweetheart.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Cassie

      Ooops...I was a fool.

      August 8, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  19. Cindy

    For true believers no proof is necessary, to non-believers no amount of proof will ever be enough.

    April 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Person of Faith

      So true.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Cassie

      Correction . . . ANY proof would be helpful.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Maybe


      Proof of what? That people lived way back then who believed certain supernatural things? OK - but that those supernatural things are real - no.

      April 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Yeah

      It's all based on other religions of the time look at the day Christians celebrate Jesus b-day.

      The actual birthday of Jesus was forgotten by the early Christian movement. in those days, various groups celebrated his birth on JAN-6, APR-21 and MAY-1. By the 4th century, the church selected the approximate time of the winter solstice as the date to recognize Jesus' birth. They picked up this date from Pagan sources. As luck would have it, the autumn equinox might have been a more accurate choice.

      The winter solstice occurs about DEC-21 each year. It is the day of the year when the night is longest and the daytime shortest. Using the crude instruments available, ancient astronomers were able to detect by DEC-25 of each year that the daytime had become noticeably longer. This date was chosen, and remains, the traditional date for followers of many different Pagan religions to celebrate the rebirth of the sun. Following the solstice, each succeeding day has slightly more sunlight than the previous day. It was seen as a promise that warmth would return once more to the earth. Numerous pre-Christian Pagan religions honored their gods' birth or rebirth on or about that day. Their deities were typically called: Son of Man, Light of the World, Sun of Righteousness, Bridegroom, and Savior. Some examples are:

      Roman Pagan Religion: Attis was a son of the virgin Nana. His birth was celebrated on DEC-25. He was sacrificed as an adult in order to bring salvation to mankind. He died about MAR-25, after being crucified on a tree, and descended for three days into the underworld. On Sunday, he arose, "as the solar deity for the new season." His followers tied an image of Attis to a tree on "Black Friday," and carried him in a procession to the temple. His body was symbolically eaten by his followers in the form of bread. Worship of Attis began in Rome circa 200 BCE.

      Greek Pagan Religion: Dionysus is another savior-god whose birth was observed on DEC-25. He was worshipped throughout much of the Middle East as well. He had a center of worship in Jerusalem in the 1st century BCE. Some ancient coins have been found in Gaza with Dionysus on one side and JHWH (Jehovah) on the other. In later years, his flesh and blood were symbolically eaten in the form of bread and wine. He was viewed as the son of Zeus, the Father God.

      Egyptian Pagan Religion: Osiris is a savior-god who had been worshipped as far back as Neolithic times. "He was called Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods...the Resurrection and the Life, the Good shepherd...the god who 'made men and women be born again'". Three wise men announced his birth. His followers ate cakes of wheat which symbolized his body. Many sayings as-sociated with Osiris were taken over into the Bible. This included:

      • 23rd Psalm: an appeal to Osiris as the good Shepherd to lead believers through the valley of the shadow of death and to green pastures and still waters
      • Lord's Prayer: "O amen, who art in heaven..."
      • Many parables attributed to Jesus.

      Worship of Osiris, and celebration of his DEC-25 birth, were established throughout the Roman Empire by the end of the 1st century BCE.

      Persian Pagan Religion: Mithra was a Persian savior. Worship of Mithra became common throughout the Roman Empire, particularly among the Roman civil service and military. Mithraism was a compet-itor of Christianity until the 4th century. Their god was believed to have been born on DEC-25, circa 500 BCE. His birth was witnessed by shepherds and by gift-carrying Magi. This was celebrated as the "Dies Natalis Solic Invite," The "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun." Some followers believed that he was born of a virgin. During his life, he performed many miracles, cured many illnesses, and cast out devils. He celebrated a Last Supper with his 12 disciples. He ascended to heaven at the time of the spring equinox, about March 21.

      The Babylonians celebrated their "Victory of the Sun-God" Festival on DEC-25. Saturnalia (the Festival of Saturn) was celebrated from DEC-17 to 23 in the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor Aurelian blended Saturnalia with a number of birth celebrations of savior Gods from other religions, into a single holy day: DEC-25. After much argument, the developing Christian church adopted this date as the birthday of their savior, Jesus. The people of the Roman Empire were accustomed to celebrating the birth of a God on that day. So, it was easy for the church to divert people's attention to Jesus' birth.

      April 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  20. rgengel

    Celebrating Passover, as 17% of US poulation will, by going to Jeff Rubys eating a 84 day air aged bone in ribeye and a bottle of 2002 Camus Special Reserve, New York Cheesecake for desert

    April 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • pointless1

      So jealous.. my mouth watered...

      April 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.