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Pesach (Passover)

Pesach (Passover)

In support of our staff, students, faculty and postdocs, this information is offered as a resource about the Jewish observance of Pesach, also known as Passover.

April 19–27, 2019

History and Meaning

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Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the story of the ancient Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. On Pesach each year, Jews around the world not only remember, but also retell the story of the exodus from Egypt. The story of the exodus is the archetypal model of redemption for the Jewish people. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is “mitzrayim,” which means narrow straits or places of constriction. This journey to freedom involves the transformative process of moving from the narrow place out into the openness of the desert, the uncharted wilderness that is both uncertain and rich with possibilities. This journey to freedom is viewed as the universal human process of opening the heart. It calls for awareness of the truth of our experience.

On the first two days and the last two days of Pesach, no work is permitted. During the middle four days, work is permitted.

Typical Observances

  • Jewish families clean out their physical presence of “chametz,” leavened bread and anything from the major grains that has not been completely cooked within 18 minutes after coming into contact with water. This removal of chametz commemorates the fact that the Jews left Egypt in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread rise.
  • The Pesach observance extends for eight days. On the first two nights of Pesach, a Seder meal is held with family. A liturgy found in the Haggadah is recited, and it is an obligation to recount this story on the first night of Passover. Foods are consumed to symbolize the story of the exodus.

Tips for Supporting the Vanderbilt Community

  • Ask community members in observance how they celebrate and how they can be supported and encouraged.
  • Be sensitive to eating situations during Pesach and consider providing a Kosher for Pesach meal or option for those observing.
  • While students are not automatically excused from class for this observance, they may work with their course instructors to make accommodations. Graduate and professional students must refer to their own school and departmental vacation policies and calendars for more specific information.
  • Staff members may request paid time off for this observance. Support their preference to take leave for their religious observance.

Resources for Managing Well-Being and Mental Health

People feel many types of emotions during the holidays—joy, peace, stress and depression, to name a few. Whatever you feel, know you are not alone, and Vanderbilt has resources to help you through these challenges.

Faculty, Staff and Postdocs
Work/Life Connections-EAP
(615) 936-1327

Office of Student Care Coordination
(615) 343-9355

For More Information

Please contact Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at For more information on the university’s policy on religious holy days and observances, contact the Office of the University Chaplain & Religious Life, at or Human Resources at