Today we observe what we call "Passover" or "Pesach" beginning on the evening of the 15th of Nisan, and then for seven days in Israel and eight days elsewhere. But the Torah, at Lev. 23:5 and Exodus 12 describes "Passover" or "Pesach" as the day the Pesach offering was brought in the Temple -- the 14th of Nisan -- and Lev. 23:6-7 tells us that the Festival of Matzos begins on the following night (the 15th of Nisan) and continues for seven days. During the first night (15th of Nisan), the Torah commanded the Jewish people to eat the Pesach offering made the afternoon before (on the 14th of Nisan). Exodus 12:6-8. Also, during the first night of the Festival of Matzos we were to retell the story of our redemption from Egypt.

Since all of these things occurred on what the Torah calls the Festival of Matzos, why do we call the festival "Passover" instead of by its Biblical name?

  • I've heard an awesome set of Shi'urim (long ago, so I cannot provide a link) about why we shouldn't! I have no idea why we do!
    – Seth J
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 17:20
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    This isn't simply metanymy? Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 17:53
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    Chazal call it Pesach all the time.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 18:42
  • @DoubleAA -- I understand everyone, including post-Temple Chazal, use our current reference. Is there any evidence that the custom preceded the destruction of the Temple? Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 19:05
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    Great question (esp.re pre Temple era). The standard translation of the Elephantine Letter seems to suggest that in 419 BCE, basically the time of Nehemiah, people spoke about them distinctly. kchanson.com/ancdocs/westsem/passover.html When I'm speaking about exegesis, I always use "Pesach" to refer to the "Passover Sacrifice." When I am speaking colloquially, I am less concerned about the difference. But I recently did a blog post on "Passover" and felt compelled to drop a footnote explaining the difference. wp.me/p2MerI-ij Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 19:42

2 Answers 2


We see that G-d calls it "Chag HaMatzot" and we call it "Chag HaPesach".

G-d calls it Chag HaMatzot (In the Torah) to express praise of the Jews. They left Egypt with only some dough, so great was their faith in G-d. G-d calls it Chag HaMatzot to celebrate that fact.

The Jews call it "Chag HaPesach" to celebrate the fact that G-d passed over the Jews houses when he unleashed the plague of the firstborn.

Sefer HaToda'ah quotes this in the name of R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev.

  • I also heard this from my Shul's Rabbi over Peasach.
    – andrewmh20
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 21:00
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    @DoubleAA , The source is Rav Levi Yitzchak of berditziv(spelling?).
    – sam
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 21:40

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained (homoleticaly) that since Pesach is the birth of the Jewish people, it's names represents three stages in it's birth.

The first is Chag Hamatzos - when a person starts learning Torah, he must start with bittul - nullification (like Matzas). So too, when Jews left Mitzrayim, they had to have bittul to remove their previous negative traits.

The second is Zman Cheiruseinu - after this nullification, one must actually understand what he learns, and must come to the understanding his teacher has. One must be a "yesh" to accomplish this. So too, it's not enough to keep Torah and Mitzvos in a broken manner. One must be "free" and enjoy Torah and Mitzvos.

The third is Pesach - that one must jump above his "natural" level and reach the level that even when one keeps Torah and mitzvos in a "broken" and "limited" manner, he is still above limitations through "jumping".

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    Isn't the question noting that the diferen names refer to different holidays? Also you don't explain why we use the third name in common parlance while we use the first liturgically
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 31, 2013 at 5:55

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