On Passover, we commemorate the exodus from Egyptian slavery. The following is a brief summary:

Jacob’s family came to Egypt to escape a famine in Canaan. Joseph, Jacob’s son and the Viceroy to Pharaoh, arranged to have his family settled in the land of Goshen, apart from the Egyptians.

After Joseph’s death, his contributions to Egyptian society were forgotten, and the new Pharaoh, feeling threatened by the amazing population growth of the Israelites, enslaved them with cruel and bitter labor.

According to the Midrash, Pharaoh was alerted to a prophecy that the Israelites would be led to freedom by a boy, yet to be born, so he ordered all newborn Jewish boys cast into the Nile. Yocheved set her newborn son (Moses) adrift in the Nile in a basket to escape the decree, where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him.

Years later, Moses came upon an Egyptian beating an Israelite. Outraged, Moses slew the Egyptian and then fled Egypt fearing that his action had been discovered. Fleeing to the land of Midian, he found refuge in the home of Jethro, and married Tzipporah, Jethro’s daughter. While shepherding Jethro’s sheep, Moses came upon a burning bush that was not being consumed by the fire and from which he heard God’s voice instructing him to go back to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Back in Egypt, Moses, joined by his older brother Aaron, went to Pharaoh and demanded the release of the Israelites. Pharaoh repeatedly said no–nine times. Each time he said no, another plague (blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts and darkness) struck Egypt. Finally, God struck all the Egyptian firstborn sons dead. After this tenth and final plague, Pharaoh finally said “yes,” and the Jews left Egypt, matzah in hand.

Pharaoh again had a change of heart and chased the Israelites, who were eventually trapped between the Egyptian army and the sea of Reeds (the Red Sea). But the sea miraculously split, and the Israelites crossed safely, while the Egyptians drowned in the returning waters. According to the Midrash, only Pharaoh survived.

The Israelites then continued their journey to Mount Sinai, where they received the Torah.

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