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Home > Holidays > Passover's Guide to Passover
Cast of Characters
Cleaning for Passover
The Haggadah
Passover Foods
The Seder
The Seder Plate
The Story

Passover: The Story

A new king takes rule over Egypt, and grows concerned that the ever-multiplying children of Israel will overtake Egypt. He enslaves them and later decrees that all Jewish male babies should be thrown into the river. Two of his leading midwives, however, disobey the order. Moses is born, placed in a basket in the river, and found by Pharaoh's daughter, who eventually takes him into her home.

Moses leaves the royal palace as a young man, and stumbles onto an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man. He kills the aggressor. Word spreads quickly. Moses flees to Midian.

At a local watering hole-literally-Moses steps in to stop some rowdy shepherds from harassing the daughters of Jethro, who are tending to their father's sheep. In those days that was like ten dates; Jethro gives his daughter, Zipporah, to Moses in marriage.

With Moses' good character established, God later appears to him in a burning bush and instructs him to go to Pharaoh to bring the Jews out of Egypt. Moses objects at first, but eventually God wins out. (Shocker.)

Moses and his brother Aaron go in God's name to Pharaoh and request a three-day holiday for the Jews in the desert, to worship their God. Pharaoh responds by making their slave labor more difficult. The Jews grow angry with Moses.

God tells Moses to return to Pharaoh and again ask him to let the Jews go. God adds that he will "harden Pharaoh's heart," setting the stage for the ten plagues that God will bring upon the Egyptians as punishment. Sure enough, Pharaoh refuses again, and God brings a plague, turning all the water in Egypt to blood. The fish die, and the Egyptians have no drinking water.

God then brings a second plague, filling the land with frogs. At that point Pharaoh asks Moses to stop the plague, and promises to let the Jews go. Moses asks God to stop the plague. The frogs disappear.

Pharaoh says just kidding. The Jews aren't going anywhere.

God then brings more plagues, namely: lice, wild animals, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness, setting the stage for the final plague, the killing of the first born. Throughout the punishments Pharaoh relents, but changes his mind as soon as the plague ends.

Following the plague of darkness, God tells Moses that at dusk on the 14th of Nisan, each Jewish family should slaughter a lamb. They should place some of the animal's blood on their doorpost, and then roast the lamb and eat it with matzah and bitter herbs.

But eat quickly and have their bags packed, God adds. At night on the 14th, God will pass through Egypt and kill every Egyptian first-born male, humans and animals alike. When he sees a doorpost with blood, however, he'll pass over it. He adds that the Jews must permanently commemorate this experience with a 7-day holiday during which only unleavened bread may be eaten.

Moses relays the commands, the Jews do what he says (the criticism of Moses' leadership has died down now that he produced all these plagues), and God delivers on his word. The Jews, numbering hundreds of thousands, leave Egypt, accompanied by God as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. The Egyptians give chase on their horses and chariots. As they get closer, the Jews become afraid. "Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us out to die in the desert?" they ask Moses.

God instructs Moses to stretch out his hand over the Red Sea. The sea splits, and the Jews go through on dry land. In follow the Egyptians. God tells Moses to wave his hand over the sea again. The waters connect. The Egyptians drown. The Jewish people are free.

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