Every year, on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, observant Jews celebrate the eight-day holiday of Passover. This year, it begins at sunset tonight.

The holiday commemorates the liberation of the Hebrew nation from slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago. As the Bible relates, 11 sons of Jacob settled in Egypt at the behest of their brother Joseph to find relief from a famine and became the elders of the 12 historic tribes of Israel.

But 400 years passed, and the Egyptians came to fear the growing Hebrew population and made them their slaves, even killing their male infants to reduce their numbers.

But one boy, Moses, was put in a basket in the Nile to save his life and was found by the daughter of Egypt’s ruler, the pharoah. Raised as a prince, Moses killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave and fled into exile for 40 years, until God commissioned him to return and free his people. means of 10 divinely imposed plagues, culminating in the killing of the firstborn child of every Egyptian family, that freedom was won. It resulted in the Exodus, a 40-year journey to the Promised Land of Canaan during which the Ten Commandments were given.

Passover – “Pesach” in Hebrew – refers to God’s command to Moses to have the Hebrews smear the blood of a sacrificial lamb on their doorways so the final plague would “pass over” their houses.

For modern participants, the day can involve a personalized retelling of the story by older family members to younger ones to convey the centrality of God’s mercy as a present-day reality, not just an ancient tale.

Part of that message, therefore, is that freedom is a general human right, not the possession of one nation or people at one point in time. It is just as important – and as universal now as it was 4,000 years ago.


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