Pesach / Passover
The story of the Bnei Yisroel’s enslavement in Egypt, starts when Yaakov, the third patriarch, passed away, leaving 70 descendants to flourish in the land of Egypt in the City of Goshen. The death of Yosef ushered in an era in which a new PHARAOH who doesn’t remember Yosef initiates a policy of bondage. The Bnei Yisroel become slaves and are forced to build the cities of Pitom and Ramses.
A HARSH DECREE
The population of the Bnei Yisroel increases and multiplies. PHARAOH fears that the Bnei Yisroel will one day rebel - he must come up with a plan to cut the population drastically.
PHARAOH orders the midwives to kill all male Hebrew children at birth. But the midwives disobey so PHARAOH orders every newborn male to be drowned.
A CHILD IS BORN
TO AMRAM &
We now zoom in to the tribe of Levi where two people, Amram and Yocheved, are parents of Miriam and Aaron. Following PHARAOH’s decree, Yocheved has given birth to a second son. Yocheved hides her baby as long as possible.
After three month, when she can’t hide him any longer, she puts him in a waterproof basket and floats the basket among the reeds of the Nile. His sister Miriam’s job is to watch where the basket floats to...
FINDS THE CHILD IN THE NILE
Cut to the palace where the daughter of PHARAOH has gone to bathe in the Nile. Suddenly she sees the basket floating! She stretches out her arm but it is too far to reach.
Then a miracle happens and her arm stretches like rubber and she grasps the basket reeling in the child. Bat-PHARAOH (the daughter of PHARAOH) realizes that the child is a Hebrew. She decides to adopt him.
At this point, Miriam pops out from among the reeds, offering to get a Hebrew nurse for the child. She returns with her mother, Yocheved.
The child is brought up in PHARAOH’s palace. He is named "Moshe" meaning "drawn out of the water."
YOCHEVED BECOMES MOSHE’S NURSE
MOSHE DEFENDS A HEBREW SLAVE
When Moshe is a grown man, he goes out among the Hebrews and observes their suffering. He witnesses a task master beating a Hebrew slave. Moshe kills the Egyptian, burying his body in the sand, thinking that no one has witnessed his actions.
MOSHE MUST RUN
The next day Moshe breaks up a quarrel between two Hebrews. One taunts Moshe, "will you kill us like you killed the Egyptian?"
Moshe realizes that he will be in terrible trouble for killing the Egyptian. Before PHARAOH discovers the truth, Moshe runs off to the land of Midyan.
In Midyan, Yitro is the spiritual leader. His seven daughters tend to his sheep. Moshe shows up at a well in Midyan just in time to protect these daughters from harrassment of the other shepherds. Yitro welcomes Moshe into his home. Moshe tends Yitro’s sheep. Eventually, he marries Yitro’s daughter, Ziporah. They have two children, Gershom and Eliezer.
As Moshe lives on in Midyan, PHARAOH dies in Egypt. His successor is even harsher with the Hebrews. The Bnei Yisroelfeel the burden of bondage and cry out to Hashem.
One day, Moshe sees an incredible sight: a bush that burns, on fire, but is not consumed! Hashem appears to Moshe for the first time, first informing him to remove his shoes because he is standing on a holy site. Next, Moshe is told that he will be Hashem’s messenger to bring the Bnei Yisroelout of bondage and to the Promised Land.
Moshe replies humbly that he is not worthy to be a leader. But Hashem says that He will guide Moshe and assist him. Hashem says that when the Bnei Yisroel ask for G-d’s name, Moshe will reply "Eyeh Asher Eyeh." ("I will be what I will be.") Moshe is to return to Egypt and inform the elders of Israel that they demand that PHARAOH let them offer sacrifices to Hashem in the wilderness.
Of course, PHARAOH will refuse. But once PHARAOH is bombarded with plagues, he will be forced to let the Bnei Yisroel go and they will leave Egypt with many riches.
In protest, Moshe claims that no one will believe him. In response, Hashem gives Moshe the power to perform three miracles.
When Moshe throws his staff to the ground it turns into a snake. When Moshe grabs the snake by its tail, it turns back into a staff.
Moshe places his hand on his chest. When he removes it, the hand is white with tzara’at (leprosy). When he repeats the process, the tzara’at goes away and his hand is healthy again.
If the Bnei Yisroel still don’t believe him, Moshe can fill a pail with water from the Nile. when the water in the pail is poured onto dry land, it will turn to blood.
Moshe still makes a case with the fact that he can’t speak well. Hashem informs him that his brother, Aharon, will serve as his spokesman.
Moshe meets up with Aharon at Mount Chorev. Moshe tells Aharon all that Hashem told him. They travel together to Egypt where they assemble the elders of Israel. After Moshe gives Hashem’s message and performs the miracles, the elders believe that Hashem has responded to their prayers.
So Moshe and Aharon appear before PHARAOH and lay down the idea of letting the Bnei Yisroel offer sacrifices to Hashemin the wilderness.
PHARAOH not only nixes that idea, but decides to impose even harsher measures for the Jews. From now on, no straw would be supplied for brick making, although the slaves would still be expected to fill the same brick quota as before. The Hebrew task masters would be whipped for not reaching these quotas.
The elders beg PHARAOH to change the decree. But PHARAOH does not. The Elders turn to Moshe and Aharon, accusing them of making the situation worse.
Moshe is very frustrated. But Hashem reveals Himself to Moshe as the One Who’s promises to Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yaakov would now be fulfilled; the Bnei Yisroel (Children of Israel) would be freed from bondage and be taken to the Promised Land. Hashem assures Moshe that PHARAOH will eventually be compelled by Hashem to let the Bnei Yisroel go.
But the Jewish people, tuckered out from the extra work, refuse to believe him.
This discourages Moshe. If his own people won’t believe him, what will PHARAOH say? Moshe is especially concerned because he has a speech problem. Again, Hashem tells him that Aharon will be his spokesperson and that PHARAOH will not let the Bnei Yisroel go until Hashem whams Egypts with heavy duty punishment.
When Moshe and Aharon go to PHARAOH for the first time, Moshe is 80 and Aharon is 83.
Aharon figures that PHARAOH will be impressed with a quick wonderous miracle. So he casts down his rod and it turns into a snake. But PHARAOH is not impressed. He calls his magicians who also turn their rods into snakes. Aharon’s rod swallows the magicians’ snakes, but PHARAOH remains unimpressed.
MOSHE & AHARON
Aharon gives over Hashem’s message to let the Bnei Yisroelgo. When PHARAOH refuses, Aharon warns PHARAOH that Hashem will strike a plague upon the land of Egypt. With that, Moshe instructs Aharon to wave his rod over the Nile. All the waters of the Nile become blood! The fish die and a terrible odor emanated from the river!
But the plague does not affect the Bnei Yisroel. The Egyptians are forced to buy water from the Bnei Yisroel. The plague goes on for seven days. But PHARAOH’s magicians are able to duplicate the plague and PHARAOH refuses to let the Bnei Yisroel go.
THE FIRST PLAGUE:
Next, Aharon stretches his hand over the Nile and tons of frogs cover the land. they’re everywhere! In the food, the houses, the water. Wherever an Egyptian walks he steps on a frog!
This time PHARAOH comes begging to Moshe to stop the plague. He promises to let the Jews go. So Moshe prays to Hashem and the plague immediately stops. But PHARAOH takes back his promise and refuses to let them go!
THE SECOND PLAGUE:
Aharon strikes down his rod on the ground and the dust turns into lice. The lice swarm over every man and beast in Egypt. This time PHARAOH’s magicians cannot reproduce the plague. They are forced to recognize the superior powers of Hashem. but PHARAOH’s heart is hardened by Hashem and he does not let the Bnei Yisroel go.
THE THIRD PLAGUE:
The next plague to hit is "wild animals". They swarm Egypt, attacking people in their homes and on the streets. But in Goshen, the Bnei Yisroel are free of fear. PHARAOH sees the devastation and is forced to agree to Moshe’s terms. But the moment the plague stops, PHARAOH once again changes his mind.
In the fifth plague, all of the Egyptian cattle dies. But PHARAOH still doesn’t budge.
THE FOURTH & FIFTH
& THE CATTLE DIE
For the next plague, Moshe sprinkles ashes into the air. The ashes become dust and an epidemic of painful boils spreads throughout Egypt, affecting man and beast. But the suffering of the Egyptians does not affect PHARAOH’s decision.
Next, PHARAOH witnessed the plague of hail. Giant balls of ice filled with fire crush people and animals and destroy all crops in Egypt. This time PHARAOH admits that he was wrong. But his heart is hardened once again and PHARAOH still refuses to let the Bnei Yisroel leave Egypt.
THE SIXTH &
BOILS & HAIL
& NINTH PLAGUES:
LOCUSTS & DARKNESS
In the eighth plague brought upon Egypt, a swarm of locusts destroy Egypt’s crops and vegetation. Once again, PHARAOH claims he will let Israel go and, once again, after the plague stops, PHARAOH takes back his promise.
Next, darkness falls upon Egypt for 6 days. For three of those days, the darkness is so thick that Egypt is paralyzed. Only the Israelites have light in their homes. This is too much for PHARAOH. He offers to let every Israelite man, woman and child leave Egypt - as long as they leave their flocks and herds behind.
Moshe doesn’t take PHARAOH up on the offer. It’s either all or nothing! So PHARAOH picks nothing! He throws Moshe out of the palace and tells him not to come back!
Before he goes, Moshe tells PHARAOH that there’s going to be one more plague, worse than all the others. One that would end the lives of every first born Egyptian!
Hashem reveals to Moshe that the redemption is near. From now on, the year would begin with the month of Nissan - the month in which the people of Israel would be freed from bondage.
That year, the 10th of Nissan was a Shabbat, "Shabbat Hagadol," the great Shabbat on which it was perceived that something of importance was going to happen. Today on Shabbat Hagadol the spiritual leader of each community teaches the laws of Pesach, so that the families can properly prepare for the festival.
On the 10th of Nissan, Hashem tells the Bnei Yisroel "to take to them every man a lamb for his household, a lamb for a house" (Shemot 12: 3).
To take a lamb for each family and to inform the Egyptians that the intention was to sacrifice these animals which were their idols, demonstrated Israel’s faith and confidence in Hashem.
On the tenth day of Nissan the head of every household would put aside a lamb to be kept until the 14th of Nissan. On that day, the lamb would be sacrificed. Some of that blood would be smeared on the doorpost of every house as a sign that it is a Jewish house. The meat from the sacrifice would be roasted and eaten with Matzah (unleavened bread) and maror (bitter herbs). Anything left over from the meat would be burnt in the morning.
PREPARING FOR THE
On that first "Seder" night, the Bnei Yisroel are commanded to eat quickly and prepare to leave Egypt fast! Hashem would only spare the first borns of those with blood on their doorposts. This day would be celebrated each year as the holiday of Pesach, a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt.
THE FIRST SEDER
Exactly at midnight, Hashem kills every Egyptian first born, man and beast. There are sobs heard throughout the land of Egypt as parents are crying for the loss of their children! PHARAOH begs the Bnei Yisroel to leave Egypt!
THE TENTH PLAGUE
The Bnei Yisroel leave their homes in such a rush that the dough has no time to rise. The tradition of eating matzoh on Pesach is thus begun.
Finally, after 10 devastating plagues ripped through the land of Egypt, PHARAOH finally got fed up and literally pushed the Bnei Yisroel out of Egypt.
In the morning, 600,000 men - about 3 million Jews left fast, following Moshe out of Exile, and start their journey to the promised land. The land that Hashem promised to Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.
EGYPT AT LAST
Instead of taking a mere ten day journey, Hashem opted to avoid an encounter with the Philistine army. Instead, they headed out in the opposite direction towards the sea and the Sinai desert, the backroute to Canaan.
Taking the remains of Yosef with them, the newly freed nation is protected by a "cloud of glory" by day and a pillar of fire by night.
When they reach Ethem on the edge of the wilderness, Hashem switches the plan and commands them to turn around and camp by the Red Sea. It’s a trap for PHARAOH. But PHARAOH doesn’t have a clue!
Back to PHARAOH... As soon as the Bnei Yisroel leave, PHARAOH regrets his decision to let them go. He gathers together a huge army of soldiers on chariots and heads out with them to cut the Jews off at the pass. Soon, the Bnei Yisroel catch a view of the Egyptian army and the complaining starts: "It would have been better if we had remained in Egypt. We would have been slaves but at least we’d be alive!"
Suddenly, the cloud of fire that lead them to the sea moves from the front to the rear of the line, creating a wall of total darkness, blocking the Egyptian army.
Meanwhile, Moshe is getting nervous. The Bnei Yisroelcontinue with their complaining. Hashem tells Moshe to spread his hands over the water. In a moment of wonder, the Red Sea splits!
Walls of water stand solid revealing dry land on which the Bnei Yisroel cross the body of water to safety.
When the last of the Bnei Yisroel is safely across, the pillar of fire lifts and the army of PHARAOH fills the seabed path. But the path becomes muddy and the thousands of soldiers and horses are thrown into confusion as their chariot wheels sink into the now muddy thruway.
Moshe stretches out his hands and the solid walls of water come crashing down on the Egyptian army, drowning every soldier and horse in PHARAOH’s force. Only PHARAOH survives to witness his army wiped out by Hashem!
AT THE RED SEA
As the Bnei Yisroel saw Hashem’s great power; they recognized Hashem and believed in Him and in His servant Moshe.
Moshe leads the men of Israel, while Miriam, Moshe’s sister, leads the women of Israel in a song of praise, commemorating Hashem’s triumph over PHARAOH’s army.
Now Hashem would lead the Bnei Yisroel to the land of Canaan (Israel).
This is the story of Pesach (Passover) -- which recounts the birth of the Jewish people as a nation -- a nation whose ultimate goal is to be a "light unto the nations."