Passover Traditions: A Brief History

Passover is a Jewish holiday that begins at sunset on the 14th day of the Jewish calendar month "Nisan." This year, Passover begins on April 6th. The holiday celebrates the Jewish people's emancipation from slavery during the Pharaoh's rule in Egypt. It is also a somber remembrance of the hardship that the Jews endured before achieving freedom.

The story of Passover begins when the Jews, forced into slavery, worked ceaselessly to build some of the great cities of Egypt. The Pharaoh, who felt threatened by the sheer number and strength of the slaves, pronounced that every Jewish boy be thrown into the river Nile. Only one survived. When Moses grew up, God told him that he must free the Jewish people from their miserable lives as slaves. According to the story, after several failed attempts at persuasion, God created ten plagues to fall upon the Egyptians. During the final plague, darkness engulfed the Pharaoh's land and the first- born child of every Egyptian family perished. A lamb was sacrificed, and its blood was placed on the door of every Jewish household, indicating that the Angel of Death pass over the home. For this reason, the annual holiday is named "Passover."

Eventually, the Pharaoh freed the Jews, but soon changed his mind. Stopped at the edge of the sea, the Jews had nowhere to go as the Egyptians descended upon them. God performed a miracle, and the sea parted, allowing the slaves to escape. As the Pharaoh's men charged forth, the sea closed up, and the pursuers were drowned. At long last, the Jews were free.

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