Let My People Go

The Jewish holiday Passover is the eight-day observance of the Israelites’ breaking the bonds of Egyptian slavery and their ensuing exodus from the tyrannical Pharaoh Ramses II. As the story goes, Moses was instructed by God to demand freedom for the Israelites. The name Passover (or Pesach, which means passing over or protection) actually comes from one of God’s instructions to Moses. In order to persuade Pharaoh to release his slaves, God intended to kill the first-born of both humans and beast; to protect themselves, the Israelites were instructed to score lamb’s blood on their dwellings, so that God would pass them over.

Pharaoh adamantly refused Moses’ plea to “Let my people go,” so God unleashed 10 deadly plagues on the Egyptian people, and after the last one, Pharaoh agreed to set free his slaves. As the Israelites fled, Pharaoh sent his army to chase after them, through the desert and toward the Red Sea. But the army was quashed when Moses performed a miracle and parted the Red Sea for the Israelites. Once they were all safely across, they watched as the gap closed up and washed away the Egyptian army.

In commemoration of this amazing event, Jews today convene at home and conduct a seder, during which the entire Passover story is told. The seder is only performed on the first or second night of the holiday. Different foods are used to symbolize the Israelites’ suffering and eventual freedom. For example, matzah, or unleavened bread, is representative of the fact that the Jews did not have time to finish baking their bread before they had to flee. They took the unleavened dough on their journey and baked it in the sun. This is just part of the symbolism associated with perhaps the most important holiday in the Jewish religion.

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