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Beginning of Oppression

Joseph and his brothers died, and the children of Israel multiplied in the land of Egypt. They held important positions and played an important role in the political, cultural, and economic life of the country. It is not surprising that they stirred the jealousy of the native Egyptians who felt outshone by the "foreigners."

Old King Pharaoh died, too, and a new one ascended the throne. He had no sympathy or love for the children of Israel, and chose to forget all that Joseph had done for Egypt. He decided to take action against the growing influence and numbers of the children of Israel. 

He called his council together, and they advised him to enslave these people and oppress them before they grew too powerful. Pharaoh limited the personal freedom of the Hebrews, put heavy taxes on them, and recruited their men into forced labor battalions under the supervision of harsh taskmasters. 

Thus the children of Israel had to build cities, erect monuments, construct roads, work in the quarries, and hew stones or make bricks and tiles. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, and the harder the restrictions imposed upon them became, the more the children of Israel increased and multiplied. 

Finally, when King Pharaoh saw that forcing the Hebrews to do hard work did not succeed in suppressing their rapidly growing numbers, he decreed that all newly born male children of the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile River. Only daughters should be permitted to live. 

Thus Pharaoh hoped to end the numerical increase of the Jewish population, and at the same time to eliminate a danger which, according to the predictions of his astrologers, threatened his own life in the person of a leader to be born to the children of Israel.

The Levites

The only group of Jews that escaped enslavement was the tribe of Levi. Levi was the last of Jacob's sons to die, and his influence over his tribe was great and lasting. They had taken over the Torah academy Jacob had established in Goshen, and they instructed the children of Israel in the knowledge of God and His holy teachings. 

Thus they were occupied with spiritual matters and did not mix with the Egyptians, while many of their brethren bad given up their old customs and way of life. Except for their language, clothing, and names, many of the children of Israel had become assimilated into the social and cultural environment of their Egyptian neighbors, and they were the ones to arouse the wrath of the Egyptians. 

Only the children of Levi were, therefore, spared the slavery and oppression which the Egyptians imposed upon the rest of Israel.

Moses’ Parents

Levi's grandson, Amram, the son of Kehat, married  Yocheved, and she bore him three children. 

Their first child was a girl by the name of Miriam, who was later to become a great prophetess of the Jewish people. 

The second child was Aaron, the highest priest of God, famous for his extraordinary love of peace. Next to his brother Moses, he was the greatest leader of our nation in his time. 

It was Amram's youngest son Moses who was destined to lead the children of Israel from Egypt and to receive for them the Holy Torah on Mount Sinai.

The Birth Of Moses

The day approached when, according to the Egyptian astrologers, the liberator of the children of Israel was to be born. Since they did not know whether he would be of Jewish or Egyptian descent, all male children born that day, were to be thrown into the water by order of King Pharaoh. 

This same day, the seventh of Adar, Yocheved, Amram's wife, gave birth to her third child, a boy. Right from the first moment of his birth, it became apparent that he was an extraordinary child, for the house was filled with a radiant light. His parents tried everything possible to prevent his falling into the hands of Pharaoh's men, who were continuously searching for newborn Jewish children. 

After three months, Yocheved saw that she would not be able to conceal her child any longer. She therefore made a small, water-proof basket in which she put the child and set him down among the papyrus reeds growing on the brink of the Nile. While Yocheved tearfully returned home, her daughter Miriam remained nearby to watch the baby.

Moses Saved

The day was hot, and King Pharaoh's daughter, Batya, came out to the river, accompanied by her maids, to take a bath in the cool waters of the Nile. Suddenly she heard the wailing of a small child. Presently she found the basket, and in it an infant boy. 

Intrigued by the child's beauty, Batya tried to figure out a way to enable her to keep him for herself and save him from death, for she understood that this boy was one of the children born to a Jewish family, and therefore condemned to death.

The child refused to be nursed by any of the Egyptian maids-in-waiting, and continued to weep. At this moment, Miriam came over to the princess and offered to procure for the child a Jewish nurse, who would keep it as long as the princess thought necessary. Batya was glad of this solution. Miriam rushed home and brought her mother, whom she introduced as an experienced nurse.

For two years the baby was left in his mother's care. Meanwhile Batya told Pharaoh about the boy she had found and adopted. Her father did not object, although the foundling was of Jewish descent; for his astrologers had told him that the one who, according to the constellation of the stars, had been predestined to become the liberator of the Jews and to threaten the life of King Pharaoh, had already been placed at the mercy of the water. 

Moreover, they said, it was the fate of this boy to die because of water. Thus, they felt sure that the danger had already been averted. Moses was taken to the royal court, where be grew up as the princely adopted son of King Pharaoh's daughter.

Moses becomes Tongue-tied

Once it happened that Moses was playing on King Pharaoh's lap. He saw the shining crown, studded with jewels, and reached for it and took it off. 

Pharaoh, who was superstitious like all his fellow-Egyptians, and who in addition was always afraid of losing his throne, asked his astrologers and counselors for the meaning of this action of the infant. 

Most of them interpreted it to mean that Moses was a threat to Pharaoh's crown and suggested that the child be put to death before it could do any harm. One of the king's counselors, however, suggested that they should first test the boy and see whether his action was prompted by intelligence, or be was merely grasping for sparkling things as any other child would.

Pharaoh agreed to this, and two bowls were set down before young Moses. One contained gold and jewels, and the other held glowing fire coals. Moses reached out for the gold, but an angel directed his band to the coals. 

Moses snatched a glowing coal and put it to his lips. 

He burned his band and tongue, but his life was saved. After that fateful test, Moses suffered from a slight speech defect. He could not become an orator, but his words were to carry weight with all, for it was God's words that were spoken through his lips. 

Moses in Midian

A conspiracy and upheaval in the government of Cush forced Moses to flee again, and he went to Midian. The priest of Midian, Jethro, had once been one of King Pharaoh's foremost advisors, but because of his friendly attitude towards the Hebrews, he had to leave Pharaoh's court. 

Jethro then settled in Midian, and became the highest priest of the land. A man of great intelligence, Jethro soon realized the silliness of idol-worship, and gave up his priesthood. The people of Midian began to hate their erstwhile priest and persecuted him.

Often it happened that Jethro's daughters were driven away from the communal well when they came to water the flocks of their father, and had to wait to the very last, until the other shepherds were gone.

On the day Moses arrived in Midian, he saw the rough shepherds chase the daughters of Jethro away from the well. Moses stood up for the girls, and helped them water their sheep. On that day they returned to Jethro rather early, and he was astonished to see them back so soon. His daughters told him about the unexpected help. Jethro immediately invited Moses to his house and not long thereafter he gave him his oldest daughter Zipporah for a wife. 

Zipporah bore Moses two children. The first one he called Gershom ("a stranger there") in commemoration of the fact that he was a stranger and exile in the land of Midian, and the second he called Eliezer, "God is my helper," in gratitude for God's protection.

Moses in Midian

A conspiracy and upheaval in the government of Cush forced Moses to flee again, and he went to Midian. The priest of Midian, Jethro, had once been one of King Pharaoh's foremost advisors, but because of his friendly attitude towards the Hebrews, he had to leave Pharaoh's court. 

Jethro then settled in Midian, and became the highest priest of the land. A man of great intelligence, Jethro soon realized the silliness of idol-worship, and gave up his priesthood. The people of Midian began to hate their erstwhile priest and persecuted him.

Often it happened that Jethro's daughters were driven away from the communal well when they came to water the flocks of their father, and had to wait to the very last, until the other shepherds were gone.

On the day Moses arrived in Midian, he saw the rough shepherds chase the daughters of Jethro away from the well. Moses stood up for the girls, and helped them water their sheep. On that day they returned to Jethro rather early, and he was astonished to see them back so soon. His daughters told him about the unexpected help. Jethro immediately invited Moses to his house and not long thereafter he gave him his oldest daughter Zipporah for a wife. 

Zipporah bore Moses two children. The first one he called Gershom ("a stranger there") in commemoration of the fact that he was a stranger and exile in the land of Midian, and the second he called Eliezer, "God is my helper," in gratitude for God's protection.

God Reveals Himself to Moses

Moses took care of the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro. 

Once when he had driven his flocks far out in the desert, a small lamb got lost. After searching for it all over the hills of the desert, Moses found it near the Mount of Horeb. He took the tired little animal in his arms and set out to return to the flocks. Suddenly an unusual sight attracted his attention.

He saw a thorn bush burst out in flame, but although the flames burned continuously, the bush did not turn into ashes. His curiosity aroused, Moses stepped closer, and out of the thorn bush, he heard the voice of God calling: 

"Moses, Moses!"

"Here I am," replied Moses. God continued to speak to him saying: "Do not draw closer! Take off your shoes from your feet; for the place whereon you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." 

Moses covered his face; for he was afraid to look up to God.

God then told Moses that He had heard the lamentations of the children of Israel in distress; and that He would deliver them from the hands of the Egyptian oppressors and bring them back into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. He, Moses, was the one to go to Pharaoh and lead the Jewish people out of Egypt.

Moses hesitated to accept this great mission. He was afraid he was neither worthy nor able to carry out such a great task. God assured him, however, that He would be with him. Still Moses begged to be relieved of this mission. He feared that the children of Israel would not recognize his authority to speak as their leader. If he told them that God had sent him, they would demand to know His name. Thereupon God told Moses to identify Him to the children of Israel as the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Who has now come to redeem them from slavery and take them to the land He had promised their ancestors.

The Miraculous Signs

To further impress the children of Israel, Moses was to perform for them miraculous wonders with his staff. It was the staff that Adam had taken out of the Garden of Eden, and that had served Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It had the inscription of God's Holy Name on it. 

Jethro had taken possession of this wonderful staff after Joseph's death. He planted it in his garden and no one had since that time been able to pull it out of the earth, until Moses came and removed it easily, thus proving his just claim to its ownership.

Now God told Moses to throw this staff on the ground. Moses did so, and the staff turned into a serpent. Moses fled in terror, but God ordered him to grasp it by its tail: Moses did so, and the serpent changed back into a staff.

Again God bade Moses put his hand into his bosom. When Moses took it out it was stricken with incurable leprosy. Then he again put his hand into his bosom, and when he pulled it out, it was clean as before. Finally, God told Moses that if he were to pour water on dry land it would turn into blood. All these signs God gave to Moses to be able to impress upon the children of Israel that God had sent him to them.

Moses made a final attempt to be relieved of his mission, hoping that God Himself would bring about His people's salvation. "I am tongue-tied," Moses pleaded. But God told him that the One who gave the human being the ability to hear, see and speak, could surely remedy this handicap! He then told Moses that Aaron would serve as his spokesman. 

Then God ordered Moses to return to Egypt, since there was no longer any danger for him there.

Moses Accepted as Leader

Moses returned to his father-in law in Midian, and asked for his approval to return to his brethren in Egypt. Jethro gave him his blessing, and Moses set out for Egypt. God then ordered Aaron to meet Moses. They met in the desert by Mount Horeb, where Moses told his older brother of the great Divine mission they were to carry out.

Back in Goshen, they visited the sages and leaders of the children of Israel. Having performed the miracles as God had instructed Moses, they told the people of the good tidings. The children of Israel believed in the Divine mission of the sons of Amram, and new hopes and faith filled their hearts.

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh

Moses was eighty years old, and his brother eighty-three, when they entered the palace of King Pharaoh. Fearlessly, they went past the heavy guard of men and wild animals that surrounded his inner chambers, and which permitted no unbidden visitor to enter. Nobody had ever been able to see the King of Egypt in person, and speak to him, except his astrologers and counselors. 

Astonished and frightened by their sudden appearance, Pharaoh asked the two brothers what they wanted. The message sounded like a command: "Thus has the Lord God of Israel said, 'Let My people go, that they may feast to Me in the desert.'" 

Pharaoh haughtily refused, saying that he had never heard of the God of the Israelites, and that His name was not registered in his lists of gods of all nations. He further accused Moses and Aaron of a conspiracy against the government, and of interference with the work of the Hebrew slaves. The miracles they performed in his presence did not greatly impress him, for his magicians could do almost as well.

On the same day Pharaoh ordered his supervisors to increase the demands on the children of Israel and to make their burden still heavier. If they had time to think of liberty and worship of God and similar ideas, quite unbecoming of slaves, then they must be getting too much leisure, Pharaoh thought. 

Whereas they had been supplied with the raw materials heretofore, they now had not only to produce the same amount of labor, but in addition, they had to procure their own raw materials for the bricks. 

The children of Israel were physically unable to cope with such an impossible task, and they suffered even more than before. In desperation the children of Israel bitterly reproached Moses and Aaron for making their fate even worse, instead of helping them.

Deeply hurt and disappointed, Moses prayed to God. God consoled him and assured him that his mission eventually would be successful, but not before Pharaoh and all of Egypt would be smitten by terrible plagues, in order to be adequately punished for oppressing the children of Israel.

The children of Israel would then also see and recognize their true and faithful God.


When Pharaoh persisted in his refusal to liberate the children of Israel, Moses and Aaron warned him that God would punish both him and his people. First, the waters of the land of Egypt were to be turned into blood. 

Moses walked with Aaron to the brink of the river. There Aaron raised his staff, smote the water, and converted them into streams of blood. All the people of Egypt and the King himself beheld this miracle; they saw the fish die as the blood flowed over the land, and they turned with disgust from the offensive smell of the sacred river. 

It was impossible for them to drink of the water of the Nile, far famed for its delicious taste; and they tried to dig deep into the ground for water. Unfortunately for the Egyptians, not only the floods of the Nile but all the waters of Egypt, wherever they were, turned to blood. The fish died in the rivers and lakes, and for a whole week man and beast suffered horrible thirst. 

Yet Pharaoh would not give in.


After due warning, the second plague came to Egypt. Aaron stretched forth his hand over the waters of Egypt, and frogs swarmed forth. They covered every inch of land and entered the houses and bedrooms; wherever an Egyptian turned, whatever he touched, he found there the slimy bodies of frogs, the croakings of which filled the air. 

Now Pharaoh became frightened, and he asked Moses and Aaron to pray to God to remove the nuisance, promising that he would liberate the Jewish people at once. But as soon as the frogs disappeared, he broke his promise and refused to let the children of Israel go.


Then God ordered Aaron to smite the dust of the earth with his staff, and no sooner did he do so than all over Egypt bugs crawled forth from the dust to cover the land. Man and beast suffered untold misery from this terrible plague. 

Although his counselors pointed out that this surely was God's punishment, Pharaoh steeled his heart and remained relentless in his determination to keep the children of Israel in bondage.

Wild Animals

The fourth plague to harass the Egyptians consisted of hordes of wild animals roving all over the country, and destroying everything in their path. Only the province of Goshen where the children of Israel dwelt was immune from this as well as from the other plagues.

Again Pharaoh promised faithfully to let the Hebrews go out into the desert on the condition that they would not go too far. Moses prayed to God, and the wild animals disappeared.

But as soon as they had gone, Pharaoh withdrew his promise and refused Moses' demand.


Then God sent a fatal pestilence that killed most of the domestic animals of the Egyptians. 

How the people must have grieved when they saw their stately horses, the pride of Egypt, perish; when all the cattle of the fields were stricken at the word of Moses; and when the animals upon which they looked as gods died smitten by the plague! They had, moreover, the mortification of seeing the beasts of the Israelites unhurt. 

Yet Pharaoh still hardened his heart, and would not let the Israelites go.


Then followed the sixth plague, which was so painful and loathsome that it must have struck the people of Egypt with horror and agony. God commanded Moses to take soot from the furnaces, and to sprinkle it towards heaven; and as Moses did so, boils burst forth upon man and beast throughout the land of Egypt.


Now, Moses announced to the king that a hail-storm of unprecedented violence was to sweep the land; no living thing, no tree, no herb was to escape its fury unhurt; safety was to be found only in the shelter of the houses; those, therefore, who believed and were afraid might keep in their homes, and drive their cattle into the sheds. 

Some of the Egyptians took this counsel to heart; but the reckless and the stubborn left their cattle with their servants in the fields. 

When Moses stretched forth his staff, the hail poured down with violence; deafening thunder rolled over the earth, and lightning rent the heavens, and ran like fire along the ground. The hail did its work of destruction; man and beast who were exposed to its rage died on the spot; the herbs were scattered to the wind, and the trees lay shattered on the ground. 

But the land of Goshen, untouched by the ravages of the storm, bloomed like a garden amidst the general devastation. Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and acknowledged his sins. "The Lord is righteous," he said, "and I and my people are wicked. Entreat the Lord that there should be no more thundering and hail; and I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer."

Moses replied: "When I am gone out of the city, I shall spread out my hands to the Lord; and the thunder will cease, and neither will there be any more hail, that thou mayest know that the earth is the Lord's." 

And it happened as Moses had said: the storm ceased, but Pharaoh's heart remained hardened.


The next time Moses and Aaron came before Pharaoh, he appeared somewhat relenting, and asked them who was to participate in the worship the Israelites wanted to hold in the desert. 

When they told him that everyone without exception, young and old, men and women, and animals, were to go, Pharaoh suggested that only the men should go, and that the women and children, as well as all their possessions should remain in Egypt. 

Moses and Aaron would not accept this offer, and Pharaoh became angry and ordered them to leave his palace. Before leaving, Moses warned him of new and untold suffering. But Pharaoh remained adamant, even though his advisers counseled against further resistance.

As soon as Moses left the palace, he raised his arms toward heaven and an east wind brought swarms of locusts into Egypt, covering the sun, and devouring everything green that had escaped the hail and previous plagues.

Never in the history of mankind had there been such a devastating plague of locusts as this one.  It brought complete ruin upon Egypt, which had already been thoroughly ravaged by the previous catastrophes. Again Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and implored them to pray to God to stop the plague. Moses complied, and God sent a strong west wind that drove the locusts into the sea. 

When relief came, Pharaoh's obstinacy returned to him, and he refused to liberate the people of Israel.


Then followed the ninth plague. For several days all of Egypt was enveloped in a thick and impenetrable veil of darkness which extinguished all lights kindled. The Egyptians were gripped with fear, and remained glued to their places wherever they stood or sat. 

Only in Goshen, where the children of Israel dwelt, there was light. But not all of the Jews were saved from this plague. There were a few who wanted to be regarded as Egyptians rather than as members of the Hebrew race, and who tried, therefore, to imitate the Egyptians in everything, or, as we call it, to assimilate themselves. They did not want to leave Egypt. These people died during the days of darkness.

Again Pharaoh tried to bargain with Moses and Aaron, bidding them depart with all their people, leaving their flocks and herds behind as a pledge. Moses and Aaron informed him, however, that they would accept nothing less than complete freedom for the men, women, and children, and that they were to take all their belongings with them. 

Now Pharaoh became angry and ordered Moses and Aaron to leave and never to return. He warned them that if they were to come before him again they would die. Moses replied that it would not be necessary for them to see Pharaoh, for God would send one more plague over Egypt, after which Pharaoh would give his unconditional permission for the children of Israel to leave Egypt. 

Exactly at midnight, Moses continued, God would pass over Egypt and smite all firstborn, man and beast. Of the children of Israel, however, nobody was to die. A bitter cry would sweep Egypt, and all the Egyptians would be gripped with terror, lest they all die. Then Pharaoh himself would come to seek out the leaders of the Hebrews, and beg them to leave Egypt without delay!

With these words, Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, who was seething with rage.

Death of the First-Born

Midnight of the fourteenth to the fifteenth of Nissan came, and God smote all first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of King Pharaoh, down to the first-born of a captive in the dungeon, and all the first-born of the cattle, exactly as Moses had warned. 

There was a loud and bitter wail in each house a loved one lay fatally stricken. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron during that very night, and said to them: 

"Arise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord as you have said; and take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also." 

At last, then, the pride of the stubborn king was broken. Meanwhile the Hebrews had been preparing for their hasty departure. With beating hearts, they had assembled in groups to eat the Paschal lamb before midnight, arrayed as they had been commanded.  

The women had taken from the ovens the unleavened cakes, which were eaten with the meat of the roasted lamb. The preparations were at last concluded, and all was ready. 

At the word of command, the whole nation of the Hebrews poured forth into the cool, still Eastern morning. But not even amidst their trepidation and danger did they forget the pledge given by their ancestors to Joseph, and they carried his remains, with them, to inter them later in the Promised Land.

Israel Leaves Egypt

Thus the children of Israel were liberated from the yoke of their oppressors on the fifteenth day of Nissan in the year 2448 after the creation of the world. There were 600,000 men over 20 years of age, with their wives and children, and flocks, crossing the border of Egypt that day - a free nation.

Many Egyptians and other non-Israelites joined the triumphant children of Israel, hoping to share their glorious future. The children of Israel did not leave Egypt destitute. In addition to their own possessions, the terrified Egyptians had bestowed upon them gifts of gold and Silver, and clothing, in an effort to hasten their departure. Thus God made His promise to Abraham, that his descendants would leave their exile with great riches, come true in every detail. 

Leading the Jewish people on their journey during the day was a pillar of cloud, and at night there was a pillar of fire, giving  them light. These Divine messengers not only guided the children of Israel on their way, but also cleared the way before them, making it both easy and safe. 

In Hot Pursuit

The shortest route for the children of Israel to the Promised Land, would have been straight across the land of the Philistines. 

However, God wanted to give the newly-born Jewish nation the opportunity to throw off the remnants of Egyptian influence, and to educate them in the new ways of a holy life, through the Divine Torah which was to be given to them on Mount Sinai.

Furthermore, the shortest way to the Holy Land would have involved the people in a war with the Philistines, and it was doubtful whether the children of Israel, who had just left centuries of continuous slavery behind, would be strong enough to fight like free men; they might decide to return to Egypt rather than face a bloody war. 

Therefore, God led the Jewish people in a round-about way. Instead of following the coast of the Mediterranean  Sea all the way to the Promised Land, they were led southwards through the desert. After three days, Pharaoh received word of the progress  of the children of Israel. The unexpected direction of their march made him think that they had gotten lost in the desert. Pharaoh now regretted that he had permitted them to leave. He immediately mobilized his army and personally took the  lead of his choicest cavalry and  war-chariots in hot pursuit of his former slaves. He reached them near the banks of the Red Sea, and pressed them close to the water, in an effort to cut off their escape. 

Fear gripped the children of Israel as they saw the pursuing hosts of their enslaver Some groups among them were ready to fight the Egyptians; others preferred to drown in the floods of the sea than risk defeat and return to slavery. A third group of frightened and feeble people began to complain against Moses, fearing that he had lured them out of the safety of Egypt to die in the desert. "Because there were no graves in Egypt," they exclaimed, "hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou done this to us, to lead us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we spoke to thee in Egypt, saying, 'Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.' " 

But Moses, calm and firm in one of the most trying moments of his life, said: "Fear ye not, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show you today: for as you have seen the Egyptians today, you shall see them again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall keep yourselves quiet." 

Then Moses led the Israelites onwards until they came to the very borders of the Red Sea. The pillar of cloud now changed its position; for, retreating from the front to the rear of the Hebrew hosts, it floated between the two armies; over the Israelies it shed a brilliant light, while it spread a veil of darkness over the Egyptians.  But the Israelites seemed now helplessly hemmed in by overwhelming dangers: the Egyptians were close behind them, and the waves of the Red Sea were breaking at their feet.

The End of the Egyptian Army

Then God spoke to Moses: "Lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thy hand over the sea and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go into the midst of the sea on dry ground." 

The waters of the Red Sea were immediately divided and gathered into a wall on either side, leaving a dry passage in the midst. The Israelites marched at once along that dry path which extended from shore to shore, and gained the opposite side in safety.

Israel’s Song of Praise

Then Moses and the entire congregation sang this Song of Praise to God for their miraculous rescue.

1."I will sing unto the Lord, for He is highly exulted; The horse and its rider has He thrown into the sea.

2. The Lord is -my strength and song, And He is become my salvation; This is my God and I will glorify Him; MY father's God, and I will exalt Him. The Lord is the lord of war, The Lord is His name.

3. Pharaoh's chariots and his host has He cast into the sea. And his chosen captains are sunk in the Red Sea. The deeps cover them they went down into the depths like a stone. 

4. Your right hand, 0 Lord, is glorious in power, Your right hand, 0 Lord, dashes in pieces the enemy.

5. And in the greatness of Your excellency You overthrow them that rise up against Thee; You send forth Your wrath; it consumes them as stubble.

6. And with the blast of Your nostrils the waters were piled up, the floods stood upright as a heap; The deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea.

7. The enemy said: I will Pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.'

8. You did blow Your wind, the sea covered them. They sank as lead in the mighty waters.

9. Who is like unto Thee, 0 Lord, among the mighty? Who is like -unto Thee, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretch out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them.

10. You in Your love have led the people that You have redeemed; You lost guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation.

11. The Peoples have beard, they trembled; Pangs have taken hold on the inhabitants of Philistia. Then were the chiefs of Edom affrighted; The mighty men of Moab, trembling taketh hold upon them; All the inhabitants of Canaan are melted away.

12. Terror and dread falleth upon them. By the greatness of Your arm they are as still as a stone; Till Your people pass over, 0 Lord, Till the people Pass aver that You have gotten. You bringest them in, and plantest them in the mountain of Your inheritance. The place, 0 Lord, which You have made for Thee to dwell in, The sanctuary, 0 Lord, which Your hands have established. The Lord shall reign for ever and ever." 

As the last words of the song died away, Miriam seized her timbrel, and followed by a multitude of Hebrew maidens and women, went forth in procession dance and proclaiming:

"Sing again to the Lord, for He is gloriously exalted; The horse and its rider has He thrown into the sea." 

CONTENT Courtesy 

Chabad-Lubavitch center
Kehot Publication Society
Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch
Feldheim Publishers
Rabbi Yanki Tauber
Sichos In English

The Matzot and Four Cups of Wine

Complete liberation from Egypt required that the newborn nation rid itself of Egyptian impurity.

At the beginning of the Torah portion Va'eira, four expressions are used with regard to the redemption from Egypt: "I will release you... I will save you... I will liberate you... I will take you...."

Our Sages note that the four cups of wine which we drink during the Passover Seder correspond to these four expressions.

Accordingly, the following question arises:

Bearing in mind that we eat Matzah on Passover "because our ancestors were liberated from Egypt," why do we not eat four Matzot, just as we drink four cups of wine? Why do we take only three Matzot to the Seder?

Evidently, there must be two aspects to the exodus from Egypt, one that is composed of three details and one that is made up of four.

What are these two aspects?

At the time the Jewish people departed from Egypt they were not yet spiritually worthy of redemption. In fact, had they remained one more moment in Egypt, they would have become forever mired in impurity.

Notwithstanding their state of depravity, God in His infinite kindness revealed Himself to them and redeemed them.

This is why the completion of the exodus came about only when the Jews received the Torah, for complete liberation from Egypt required that the newborn nation rid itself of Egyptian impurity.

This was accomplished as the Jews prepared themselves in the days between the exodus and the receiving of the Torah; they achieved such heights that by the time the Torah was given they could justifiably be called a "holy nation."

The difference between the symbolism of "Matzah" and "wine" will be understood accordingly:

Matzah emphasizes the aspect of the exodus that came about as a result of God's redemption from the impurity of Egypt.

It is for this reason that Matzah is called "impoverished bread" bread that lacks taste - for it is a remembrance of spiritual impoverishment.

"Taste" refers to something a person can appreciate in some way.

Since the liberation from Egypt originated from Above rather than from the spiritual preparation of the Jewish people, it is understandable that it lacked "taste" - the Jews were compelled to leave.

Wine, however, has taste and is enjoyable.

It is a "remembrance of the liberation and freedom" ultimately achieved by the Jews, i.e., it was through their own service that they were redeemed from the evil of Egypt.

The reason for three Matzot vis-a-vis four cups of wine now becomes clear:

There is a difference between the first three expressions of liberation and the fourth, in that the first three - "I will release you... I will save you... I will liberate you" - are aspects of redemption that took place immediately upon the departure from Egypt; they came from Above.

The fourth expression - "I will take you unto Me as a Nation" - however, depended on the Jewish people; they had to become worthy of being called God's nation. This was accomplished when they received the Torah.

Thus, Matzah is equated with the number three, corresponding to the first three expressions of liberation, inasmuch as Matzah commemorates the redemption as it came from Above.

The cups of wine, however, allude to the liberation accomplished by and within the Jewish people.

The cups are therefore equated with the number four, for they denote the fourth expression of redemption - "I will take you unto Me as a Nation."

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. (Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXVI, pp. 43-46.)

Remembering the Exodus and the Shabbat Why must we remember the Exodus the way we remember the Shabbat?

Twelfth-Century master, Maimonides, writes that "On the night of the fifteenth of Nissan it is a positive command of the Torah to relate the miracles and wonders that transpired with our forefathers in Egypt, for it is written: 'Remember this day on which you went out of Egypt,' [and the meaning of 'remember' here is] similar to that which is written 'Remember the day of Shabbat.'" 

Why does the Rambam find it necessary to liken the manner in which we remember the Exodus to the way in which we remember the Shabbat? Why doesn't the verse "Remember this day on which you went out of Egypt" stand alone?

At the beginning of the laws of Shabbat the Rambam states: "Resting from labor on the seventh day is a ositive command, for it is written, 'On the seventh day you shall rest.' Whoever performs labor at that time negates a positive command and transgresses a prohibitive commandment."

Thus Shabbat involves both the positive aspect of rest and the negative aspect of not performing labor.

The fact that the Rambam begins the laws of Shabbat with the positive command, notwithstanding the fact that most of the laws of Shabbat deal with prohibitions of various forms of labor, indicates that the main aspect of Shabbat observance lies in this positive aspect.

Both the negative and positive aspects of Shabbat derive from two sections in the Torah:

In the section describing Creation the verse states: "He rested on the seventh day from all His labor which He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, for on it He rested from all His labor..." - emphasizing that on this day there was both rest and cessation from labor.

In the section describing God's giving of the Torah, where the Jews are told: "Remember the day of Shabbat," the verse goes on to state: "For [in] six days the L-rd made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day."

In other words, here we are told that Shabbat is unique not only in that God ceased on it from the labor of the Six Days of Creation, but more importantly, that Shabbat is God's day of rest.

Thus, the more important part of "Remembering the day of Shabbat" is the positive sense of rest rather than the mere negation of labor, as our Sages state that after the completion of the Six Days of Creation the world was lacking rest and tranquility.

Only when Shabbat began did rest and tranquility arrive. Or as the Rambam expresses it: " 'Remember it' - a remembrance of praise and sanctification." 

With regard to the exodus from Egypt as well, we find two aspects: the release of the Jewish people from servitude, and the fact that we became a free, independent people.

This is similar to the condition achieved by every freed slave: His master's dominion over him ceases; as a free man he becomes wholly his own person.

By connecting the tale of the Exodus on the fifteenth of Nissan to remembrance of the Shabbat, the Rambam is indicating that with regard to relating the events of the Exodus too, the main aspect is the positive step of becoming free.

For just as remembering the Shabbat involves not so much the negation of labor as the positive theme of rest, so too the obligation to relate the tale of the Exodus involves not so much the recalling of our release from slavery as the recounting of how we became free men.

Thus the Rambam goes on to say in the following law that even when one relates the tale of the Exodus to a son who is a minor or simpleton he should say: "On this night God redeemed us and took us out to freedom," thereby emphasizing that God enabled us to become free.

Consequently, the Rambam goes on to say that "An individual is obligated to conduct himself as if he himself had just gone out of Egypt" - "as if you yourself were enslaved, and you went out to freedom and were redeemed."

One should conduct himself on this night as a free man.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. (Likkutei
Sichos, Vol. XXI, pp. 68-73.)

The First and Final Redemption

The last day of Passover, known as Acharon Shel Pesach, concludes the theme of liberation and redemption from exile.

While the first night of Passover commemorates the redemption from exile in Egypt, the final day celebrates the future Redemption, which God will bring about through Moshiach.

The connection between the first and the last redemption is also gleaned from the verse: "As in the days when you left Egypt, I shall show you wonders [during the final Redemption]."

Our Rabbis ask: Why does the verse say "As in the days when you left Egypt," when the Exodus took place on one day, as the verse states: "Remember this day on which you left Egypt."

On the day the Jewish slaves left Egypt they achieved the status of free people. This transition, however, is an ongoing experience that requires constant meditation on the concepts of slavery and freedom. A person's ruminations must have a salutary effect on his daily conduct.

This is why spiritual redemption from all straits and limitations that constitute spiritual Egyptian exile is an ongoing process, notwithstanding the fact that the Jews'  physical Exodus took only one day. 

This is expressed by our Sages when they state: "In each and every generation and on each and every day, every man is obligated to see himself as if he had gone out from Egypt on that very day."

Man's viewing the Exodus from Egypt as a continuous process will lead to daily improvement in conduct as well - as befits a free man.

Both the first and the final redemption involve the liberation of all the Jewish people. Just as the Exodus encompassed the entire nation and resulted from the Jews' collective service, so will the future Redemption liberate all Jews from exile, and it too  will result from our collective efforts.

This collective liberation and effort came about during the Exodus as a result of the effort of each Jew, who first liberated himself from his own spiritual exile.

And so with the final liberation: the efforts of each and every Jew in redeeming himself from spiritual exile will result in the collective redemption of all Jews from the final exile.

In practical terms, the lesson from the above is that each and every Jew is entrusted by God with a unique mission that he, and only he, is capable of accomplishing.

He cannot rely on someone else to fulfill that mission for him, for the other individual is entrusted with his own mission.

On the other hand, each person must also realize that he is part of a collective - the Jewish nation. His mission is thus of vital importance not only to himself but to all the Jewish people.

Fulfilling his mission as an individual thus helps the Jewish people fulfill their mission as a collective whole. Ultimately, each Jew's personal redemption from spiritual exile leads to the collective redemption of all Jews from the final exile.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. (Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXII pp. 258-263.)

Vaulting, Bounding and Leaping
Little-known insights about Passover.

The name of the holiday Passover, or Passover, derives from the Hebrew words meaning "and God will leap over."

Rashi explains further: "The festival is called Passover because of [God's] leaping.... Therefore perform all its aspects in a manner of bounding and leaping."

What is the particular relationship between the holiday that celebrates the Exodus, and bounding and leaping?

The Jewish people lived in Egypt for many generations, eventually descending to a state of slavery. Some became so mired in slavery that when the time came for their liberation they did not want to leave Egypt!

During the period that the Jews were in Egypt, the country was considered to be the most culturally advanced of its time in terms of knowledge, art, technology and philosophy - the things people commonly refer to when they speak of "culture" and "civilization."

But in terms of morality and ethics, Egypt was the most depraved, degenerate and immoral of lands, so much so that it was known as the "abomination of the earth."

It was from such a land that the Jewish people had to attain complete physical and spiritual freedom, so that soon afterward they would be able to lift themselves to the heights necessary for receiving God's Torah. For the main purpose of the Exodus was the receipt of Torah, as God told Moshe: "When you will take the nation out of Egypt, they shall serve God upon this mountain [of Sinai]."

Indeed, Rashi notes that it was in merit of their eventual service to God at Sinai that the Jewish people were redeemed from exile.

Receiving the Torah from God involved the acceptance of all its decrees, beginning with the Ten Commandments, the first of which was: "I am the L-rd your God, you shall have no other gods," and the last of which was: "You shall not covet... anything that belongs to your fellow man."

These themes of God's absolute unity and the highest degree of ethics and morality in terms of man's relationship with his fellows stood in stark contrast to the depravity of Egyptian "culture" and "civilization."

Clearly, departing from such an abject state and achieving true inner freedom to the extent of accepting Torah and Mitzvot before fully comprehending them required the mighty leap of "Passover - in a manner of bounding and leaping."

All this began while the Jews were still in Egypt, when God told them about the Passover service, including the instruction that the entire service be done "in a manner of bounding and leaping."

This vaulting manner of service culminated on the first night of Passover, when God Himself leapt over the bonds and fetters of exile, revealed Himself to the Jewish people while they were still in Egypt, released them from their captivity and established  that from then on their inner state would be one of spiritual freedom.

This Passover theme of vaulting and leaping is fundamental to Jews and Judaism at all times and in all places, and is to be carried through the rest of the year.

We find ourselves exiled in a physical world, with a preponderance of our time required for physical acts such as eating, drinking, sleeping, earning a living, etc. The time remaining for spiritual affairs such as Torah study, prayer and the performance of Mitzvot is thus severely restricted.

Nevertheless, Passover tells us that as Jews we are expected and empowered to "leap over" all physical and corporeal  limitations to attain true spiritual freedom the whole year through.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. (Likkutei Sichos Vol. XII, pp. 160-164.)

It is said that the Seder is celebrated especially for the children. It is important for Jewish children to be and feel involved in the celebration of Passover. Much of the ceremony is based on the  commandment in the Bible that says, "And thou shalt tell thy son".

At the Seder the Haggadah, the Book of Exodus, is read and the history celebrated with its stories, songs and prayers.

Passover is the 8 day observance commemorating the freedom and exodus of the Israelites (Jewish slaves) from Egypt during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II. 

A time of family gatherings and lavish meals called Seders, the story of Passover is retold through the reading of the Haggadah. With its special foods, songs, and customs, the Seder is the focal point of the Passover celebration. Passover begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. As the Jewish day begins at sundown the night before, this year (2002) the first night of Passover is Wednesday March 27th. 

About 3000 years ago the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians under the rule of the Pharaoh Ramses II. According to the Book of Exodus - Moses, a simple Jewish shepherd, was instructed by God to go to the pharaoh and demand the freedom of his people Moses' plea of let my people go was ignored.

Moses warned the Pharaoh that God would send severe punishments to the people of Egypt if the Israelites were not freed. Again the Pharaoh ignored Moses' request of freedom. In response God unleashed a series of 10 terrible plagues on the people of Egypt.  (see the complete story above)

3.Lice (vermin) 
4.Wild Beasts (flies) 
5.Blight (Cattle Disease) 
10.Slaying of the First Born 

The holiday's name - Pesach, meaning "passing over" or "protection" in Hebrew, is derived from the instructions given to Moses by God . In order to encourage the Pharaoh to free the Israelites, God intended to kill the first-born of both man and beast.

To protect themselves, the Israelites were told to mark their dwellings with lamb's blood so that God could identify and "pass over" their homes.

The Pharaoh was unconvinced and refused to free the Jewish slaves.  Until the last plague when the Pharaoh finally agreed to freedom, the Israelites left their homes so quickly that there wasn't even time to bake their breads. So they packed the raw dough to take with them on their journey. As they fled through the desert they would quickly bake the dough in the hot sun into hard crackers called matzohs. Today to commemorate this event, Jews eat matzoh in place of bread during Passover.

Though the Jews were now free, their liberation was incomplete. The Pharaoh's army chased them through the desert towards the Red Sea. When the Jews reached the sea they were trapped, since the sea blocked their escape.

It was then that a miracle occurred. The waves of the Red Sea parted and the Israelites were able to cross to the other side. As soon as they all reached the other side the sea closed trapping the Pharaoh's army as the waves closed upon them.

Then as the Israelites watched the waters of the Red Sea sweep away the Pharaoh's army they realized they were finally free.

Passover celebrates this history. The first 2 nights of the 8 day holiday are celebrated with lavish meals called Seders in which the stories and history of Passover are celebrated. Special foods, plates, silverware are all a part of the Seder.

The Passover Seder

Taking place the first 2 nights of the 8 day holiday, the Seder is the most important event in the Passover celebration. Usually gathering the whole family and friends together, the Seder is steeped in long held traditions and customs. Leading up to the first night of Passover, the home is cleaned and cleared of all yeast foods, called hametz. All hametz is either eaten before Passover begins or "sold" to non-Jewish neighbors.
and friends

The rules surrounding Passover are strict and many, with only special foods, utensils, and dishware allowed.  Kitchen utensils and dishware normally used in the home are not be used during Passover. Special dishes and utensils for the Passover holiday are taken out of storage, cleaned and used.  Only foods that are "Kosher for Passover" are allowed. No leavened (containing yeast) foods or grains are eaten. In their place matzoh and foods containing matzoh are eaten. This is to commemorate the Israelites who fled quickly into the desert with no time for their breads to rise and were forced to bake the dough into hard crackers in the desert sun. All foods prohibited during Passover must be disposed of the morning of the first night of Passover.

The Passover Seder

With its Passover dishware and silverware, the Seder table is different than the regular dinner table. The centerpiece of which is the Seder plate, a special plate containing the 5 foods that remind us of the struggle of the Israelites in their quest and journey to freedom.

Three pieces of matzoh are placed in a Matzoh Cover (a cloth sleeve or envelope) and placed in the center of the Seder table. Before the meal begins the middle matzoh is removed and broken in half.

One half is returned to the Matzoh Cover, the other - the Afikomen - is hidden, to be hunted by the children at the end of the Seder meal. The child who finds the Afikomen wins a special prize. Some homes break the Afikomen in to many pieces assuring that each child present can find a piece and  receive a prize.  The Seder plate contains foods that have special meaning for this holiday.

The Seder plate contains foods that have special meaning for this holiday.
2.Parsley (dipped in salt water) 
3.Roasted egg 
4.Shank Bone 
5.Bitter herbs 

Haroseth - A mixture of chopped walnuts, wine, cinnamon and apples that represents the mortar the Jewish slaves used to assemble the Pharaoh's bricks.

Parsley - Symbolizing Springtime, it is dipped in salt water to remind us of for the tears of the Jewish slaves. 

Egg - Another symbol of Spring

Shank Bone - Symbolic of the sacrificial lamb offering, the bone can come from whatever the family is eating, such as the leg bone of a roasted turkey.

Bitter Herbs - Freshly grated horseradish reflects the bitter affliction of slavery. 

During the Seder 4 glasses of wine are poured to represent the 4 stages of the exodus.


A fifth cup of wine is poured and placed on the Seder table. This is the Cup of Elijah, an offering for the Prophet Elijah. During the Seder the door to the home is opened to invite the prophet Elijah in. 

After the meal is eaten, the children search for the Afikomen. The Seder is finished when the children have found the Afikomen and everyone has eaten a piece. 



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