The festival of Passover is known by several names, each with a distinctive significance:

Hag ha-Matzot, Feast of the Unleavened Bread (Exodus 23:15), is the biblical designation in commemoration of the physical exodus.

Hag ha-Pesah, Festival of the Paschal Offering (Exodus 34:25), refers both to the paschal lamb and to God's "passing over" (pasah) or p rotecting, the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt during the plagues (Exodus 12:23).[1]

The seasonal nature of the festival is indicated by the name, Hag ha-Aviv, Festival of the Spring.

Zeman Herutenu, Season of our freedom, is the term found in the liturgy, marking the establishment of the children of Israel as a free and independent people.

Philo calls Passover the "crossing-feast" as he traces the name not to the passing over of the Israelites by the destroying angel (Exodus 12:23,27), "but to the crossing of Israel itself from Egypt... and no doubt also the crossing of the Red Sea."[2]

In Morocco, the Seder evening is called Layl ar-rass (Night of the Heads) as it was customary among Moroccan Jews to eat heads of sheep in commemoration of the paschal offering in the Temple.[3]

Strange designation were given to Passover in two particular years during the time of the Temple. The Talmud relates that "no man was ever crushed in the Temple court [in spite of the enormous crowds] except on one Passover in the days of Hillel, when an old man was crushed to death. The rabbis called the festival on that particular year 'The Passover of the Crushed.'"[4]

The Talmud relates further: "Once King Agrippa, desirous of ascertaining the male population of Israel, ordered the High Priest to pay heed to the paschal lambs. So he took one kidney of each one and there were found sixty myriad couples – double the number of those that came forth from Egypt . . . and there was not a single paschal lamb on which less than ten people were counted. And it was called ‘The Crowded Passover.'"[5]

footnotes [1] Zeitlin, Solomon, "The Liturgy of the First Night of Passover," Jewish Quarterly Review 38/4 (April 1948). [back]
[2] Philo, English translation by F.H.Colson, Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1937, vol. 7. [back]
[3] Lubelsky, Mordecai, "At a seder in Casablanca," The Day-Jewish Journal, April 1958. [back]
[4] BT Pesahim 64b. [Back]
[5] Heinrich Gratez, in History of the Jews (JPS 1893) gives the account of Agrippa and the High Priest that is in the Talmud, but he uses the name "Passover of the Crushing." [back]

From: The Passover Anthology, ed. Philip Goodman. Jewish Publication Society, 1993.

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