From Slavery to Freedom: Israel Celebrates Passover

March 30, 2018

by: Ilse Strauss

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Traditional Seder table

Friday, 30 March 2018 | The series of events has inspired countless movies, books and songs. The story of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt does, after all, have all the elements required for an epic tale. There is the cruel and merciless task master, a people oppressed, and an Almighty God who liberates His people “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut. 26:8).

As sundown tonight ushers in the festival of Passover, Israel commemorates God’s miraculous intervention to deliver His people from bondage and lead them into freedom.

The seven-day festival—and its symbolism—is indeed cause for celebration. Passover marks God’s redemption of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. It celebrates the birth of a nation forged in the desert. It rejoices in His leading the children of Israel into the Land of His promise.

The Exodus took place around 1,400 BC, some 3,300 years ago. As God led His people from slavery to freedom, the Jewish nation was established on the forefront in the clash of civilizations between democracies and rogue regimes. Today, as the descendants of the children of Israel prepare to celebrate their miraculous deliverance, they remember that the very first Passover dawned quite dramatically.

After decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, God established Moses to lead the Jewish people from Egypt to the Promised Land. Moses approached Pharaoh with a message from God, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me” (Exod. 9:1). Pharaoh refused. Nine plagues followed. Yet Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened.

Then came God’s message to Israel, “About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die…” (Exod. 11:4-5a). Yet the firstborn from the nation of Israel remained untouched–through the blood of the Passover lamb.

God commanded the people to choose an unblemished lamb for each Jewish household. The lamb was then slaughtered and the blood applied on the doorposts and lintels of each household. “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exod. 12:13).

Things happened just as God said. Where the blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the doorposts, the Angel of Death passed over that house.

Six hundred thousand men, plus many more women and children, left Egypt on that Passover day to begin the journey as the nation of Israel to the Land which God promised to their forefathers.

Tonight the descendants of the children of Israel remember these epic events as Passover begins. For seven days, only unleavened bread, or matzah, will be eaten. The main celebration takes place at home among family and friends with a traditional feast called a Seder (literally “order”). The meal takes place in a specific order, which is meant to take everyone on a journey from slavery to freedom. It includes the reading of the Haggadah (“the telling”) which tells the story of God’s miraculous delivery of His people from Egypt.

The Seder is a joyous celebration with songs, prayers and questions. Everybody participates in recalling and retelling the story. Passover, more than any festival, is about remembering and passing that story of deliverance on to the next generation, just as God commanded, “So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance” (Exod. 12:14).

More than 3,000 years later, Israel still keeps that commandment. The nation’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, explained it this way, “More than 300 years ago, a ship by the name of the Mayflower left Plymouth for the New World. It was a great event in American and English history. I wonder how many Englishmen or how many Americans know exactly the date when that ship left Plymouth, how many people were on the ship, and what was the kind of bread the people ate when they left Plymouth.”

“Well, more than 3,300 years ago, the Jews left Egypt…and every Jew in the world knows exactly the date we left. It was on the 15th of [the month of] Nisan. The bread they ate was matzah. Up to date, all the Jews throughout the world on the 15th of Nisan eat the same matzah, in America, in Russia. [They] tell the story of the exile from Egypt; all the sufferings that happened to the Jews since they went into exile. They finish [with] these two sentences: ‘This year we are slaves; next year we will be free. This year we are here; next year we will be in Zion, the land of Israel.’ Jews are like that.”

Yet as the festive atmosphere wraps itself around Israel today, there is also a sense of heightened awareness, especially in the nation’s capital, with some 150,000 visitors from around the globe expected to celebrate Passover and Easter at the Western Wall and Christian Quarter. This year, both these holidays are celebrated at the same time.

Some 100,000 Jews are expected at the Western Wall for the traditional priestly blessing on the morning of 2 April 2018, while tens of thousands of Christians will likely flock to the Old City for special services, ceremonies and events on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Following a surge of terror attacks in late February and the beginning of March, defense forces across the country have been on high alert ahead of the coming holidays. In Jerusalem, this meant deploying additional border police and police forces.

Despite the heightened security, Israel Police Chief Roni Alsheikh told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday that that there was nothing to worry about. “The scenario on the eve of the holiday this year is no different than any other year,” he said. “There are currently no unusual warnings about attacks during the Passover holiday.”

Posted on March 30, 2018

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 30 March 2018)

Photo Credit: datafox/wikimedia.com

Photo License: Wikimedia