Passover is once again upon us. On Friday night, Jews all over the world will be retelling the story of the Israelites’ escape from bondage in Pharaonic Egypt. There are many regional, denominational and familial traditions and they make the holiday richer and more inclusive. Many people don’t know, however, that the name of the traditional Passover meal, the Seder, actually means order. Some things can be left to personal choice, but what has bound world Jewry together over millennium in diaspora is adherence to certain core rituals. With that in mind, we’ve compiled the best iOS apps to prepare for, celebrate, keep the special eight-day kosher for Passover diet, and even guide you through the Omer, whatever your personal leaning. And, we wish all who celebrate a Chag Sameach.
Preparing for Passover
Before you can celebrate any Jewish holiday it helps to know what the Hebrew date corresponds to on the Gregorian calendar. Jewish Days will let you know when holidays are coming and even tell you a little about what they entail.
This week, observant Jewish families are scouring their homes to rid them of every crumb of leavened food products. During Passover, Jews eat only unleavened bread to commiserate with their ancestors who had no time to let bread rise whilst making good their escape. Many secular Jews forgo this ritual Spring-cleaning, but for those who adhere to it, all the blessings are here along with what you need to look out for. There’s even a handy flashlight to get into the corners of that pantry.
While some families may just hide the frozen waffles in the basement sub-zero, no Seder is complete without the youngest child asking the Four Questions. These fundamental questions about what makes the Passover nights different from the rest of the year is the real starting point for the Seder. It’s often a thrilling moments for parents, but being that kid in the spotlight can be kind of scary. This app lets anyone learn the Hebrew words by singing along with flashcards, and you can even record your practice sessions.
The Passover story
The story of Passover can be hard to glean from archaic translations or even more archaic original texts, but in this app the story is presented in simple terms and basic questions about the various traditions are answered. It’s great for hiding under the table so you aren’t stumped when a Gentile friend asks, “hey, why is this night different?”
The Passover story comes to life in this simple interactive storybook that retells the biblical story in language little kids can grasp and enjoy. There are matching games and other fun distractions. And remember, never scold a child for interrupting the Seder; encourage them to ask questions, but when you need a break you can always pass the iPhone.
The Seder - Haggadot
The Haggadah is the basic manual on how to run a Seder. This version is a little like the free Maxwell House copies that used to be everywhere. It’s not too formal, not entirely complete, but it’s an easy reference tool and as non-sectarian as you are likely to find.
If you are looking to experience a more traditional Seder, but all the folks who know how to sing the prayers and songs in Hebrew are absent from your celebration, this is the app you want to get. You can read along with this traditional Haggadah, or better still, let Cantor Emanuel Perlman, lyric tenor and 15-year veteran, lead you through the meal with song and the joy that liturgical music brings.
Marge Piercy has a Haggadah that is very aptly named. This modern version is ideal for many Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist Synagogue members and those looking to add a personal touch to ancient rites. The lauded author looks at traditions old and new, but her purpose is to bring personal meaning to the rituals and even invent new ones.
Keeping Kosher for Passover
While there are only two Seders (one if you live in Israel) observant Jews abstain from eating leavened bread for a full eight days. But, bread is not the only thing off the menu. All sorts of dietary laws and regional conventions apply. Kosher Cookbook is great year-round, but of course includes a selection of both traditional and new dishes that will make any Yiddishe chef’s work easier.
This app is essential for observant and orthodox Jews looking to stock the larder with certified Kosher-for-Passover foodstuffs. The app comes with product alerts for foods just added by the Orthodox Union and even has an emergency hotline number to make sure no Chametz passes your lips.
Recipes and social networks have been a tasty blend for a long time, as Food Street knows well. People love sharing favorite meals and finding inspiration from their friends’ tables. If you are this type of social chef, keeping kosher for Passover just got a little more fun with a dedicated app. And to your loved ones, here’s hoping for moist desserts!
Counting the Omer
Many observant Jews don’t forget about the Passover story on the last night. Instead they continue to observe a somewhat solemn vigil, abstaining from merrymaking for 49 days minus a one-day break (Lag Ba’ Omer) for weddings and other celebrations. If you are counting the Omer, as this period is called, this app can keep you company while you wait for Shavuot when God passed down the Torah from atop Mt. Sinai – which takes us right back to our first app, to find out more.