What Do You Say on Passover? Prayers, Blessings and Greetings for Jewish Holiday Telling Story of Exodus From Egypt

Passover begins at sundown tonight and although seders that are filled with lots of family and friends will be missed, it's the perfect time to send a greeting to your loved ones through cyberspace.

The holiday tells the story of the persecution of the Jewish people and their exodus from Egypt. It's marked with two ceremonial diners, known as seders, and it is a time to acknowledge the suffering of others, as well as, celebrate freedom.

This year, people will observe Passover under abnormal circumstances as the world grapples with a pandemic. America's dealing with the largest outbreak of a new coronavirus worldwide and more than 370,000 people have tested positive. As the virus threatens to claim the lives of up to 200,000 people in America, officials are urging people to limit their interactions with others to reduce the risk of infections.

Officials at the state level have prohibited gatherings and in New York, Michigan and Maryland have announced people can be fined for violating social distancing policies. Given the national advice against gathering in groups of 10 or more, it's likely many seders will have fewer attendees than usual.

Being physically distant doesn't mean you have to be completely separated from your loved ones and those looking to send a message to their friends or family have a few options. If you want to keep it simple, go with "Happy Passover," or "Happy Pesach," as Pesach is Hebrew for "Passover."

Another option, according to Chabad, is "chag same'ach," meaning happy festival or "gut yom tov," which has a slightly redundant meaning in English of "good, good day."

passover greetings prayers blessings
A man reads a prayer while holding greens dipped in salt water in advance of Passover March 29, 2007, in New York City. This year Passover falls as the world deals with a global pandemic and in the U.S., people are being advised not to gather in groups of 10 people or more. Spencer Platt/Getty

For those who observe Passover but rely on a parent, friend or family member to lead the seder, observing the holiday away from home this year might require a refresher on the prayers and blessings. It also may mean you don't have a haggadah, a book that guides the seder, but fortunately, there are a number of free versions that can be downloaded from the internet.

Traditionally, the seder begins with the lighting of the candles, during which, two prayers are said, as translated to English by Chabad:

  • Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Yom Tov light.
  • Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

The wine is also blessed with a prayer known as the Kiddush. When Passover falls on a weekday, as it does this year, the Kiddush begins with, "Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine." Then, it continues to say, "Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the universe, who has chosen us from among all nations, raised us above all tongues, and sanctified us by His commandments. And You, G‑d, have given us lovingly."

Blessings are also said for the parsley, bitter herb and matzo, identified as:

  • Parsley (karpas): Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, King of the universe who creates the fruit of the earth
  • Bitter herb (maror): Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the eating of maror
  • Matzo: Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth

One way people are coming together while staying apart for Passover is through video conferencing and some synagogues are also offering free online services. Admittedly, the one thing you may have difficulty doing if you're alone for Passover is searching for the afikomen. A piece of matzo, the afikomen is hidden and then the children present for the seder search for it. Having hidden the afikomen yourself, it takes the thrill out of finding it.