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Old 02-23-2004, 05:59 AM
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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.

It is essentially a personal experience in the re-telling of the story of the Exodus. A living "Bible Study".

As a child it was almost a magical experience as everyone went around the table, each taking turns reading the Passover story from the Haggadah..The Passover story book. There were special foods and special dinner paltes, candles glowing, and wine for everyone ( grape juice for the littlest of us) .. Even the youngest child at the table has a part in the telling of the Passover story. It is their job to ask "The Four Questions" And the job of the group to answer them. The First of the "Four Questions is "Why is this night different from all other nights?" The History of Passover I have posted below will help answer that question for those of you who may not know...

"Passover is 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, for the year 2004, the first night of Passover will be April 5th.

This is a History Of Passover..

Passover celebrates the Jewish people's freedom from Egyptian bondage that took place approximately 3,500 years ago, as told in the first 15 chapters of the biblical Book of Exodus.

Before the Jewish people were known as Jewish or Jews - names that were derived from the Kingdom of Judah where they lived from 922 B.C.E. until 587 B.C.E. - they were known as either Israelites or Hebrews. "Hebrews", "Israelites", or the "Children of Israel" were names that collectively described the descendants of the Hebrew patriarch Jacob (also known as Israel).

The Hebrews and Israelites eventually established and lived in both the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. The events of Passover written about in the Book of Exodus occurred at a time before the Jewish people were known as Jewish or Jews, and so we refer to the Jewish people as either Hebrews or Israelites in the Passover story that follows.

As slaves, the Israelites were building cities such as Pithom and Ra'amses [not to be confused with the Pharaoh (King) Ramses] which were used as supply centers for the Pharaohs of Egypt.

How did the Israelites wind up in Egypt in the first place to set the stage for the Passover story? According to the Book of Exodus, there was a famine in the land of Canaan (later known as Palestine) and because of this famine the Hebrew patriarch Jacob traveled with his extended family of 70 to Egypt to both live in better conditions and be with his son Joseph, whose wisdom had impressed the King (or Pharaoh) of Egypt to the point that he was appointed Viceroy of Egypt, which was second in power only to the Pharaoh.

The next 430 years in Egypt saw the Hebrews prosper and rapidly multiply to about 3 million people. These numbers were so great that during this time one Pharaoh became nervous that the Israelites were becoming too many in number to control and thought they might side with Egypt's enemies in case of war. This Pharaoh decreed that the Hebrews should be enslaved to build cities and roads for him so that they would be too tired and also wouldn't have time to have children. The Israelites were then confined to the land area of Goshen, which was the fertile land that was east of the Nile delta and west of the border of Canaan.

When that didn't slow down the population growth of the Israelites, this Pharaoh then decreed that all Israelite males should be killed, but the Hebrew midwives - Shifra and Puah - who were ordered by Pharaoh to be in charge of this task feared the wrath of G-d and made sure that this didn't happen.

The Pharaoh then ordered his people to throw every male child born to a Hebrew in the Nile River. Pharaoh was afraid that Hebrew males could grow up to become fighters against his regime. Pharaoh spared Hebrew girls because they would not become fighters against his regime, and he thought they would marry Egyptian men and adopt Egyptian values.

During the time when Pharaoh issued his decree to kill Hebrew males, Moses, who later was to lead the Hebrews out of their slavery in Egypt to freedom, was an infant at this time and his concerned mother, Jochebed (alternate spelling: Yocheved), placed him in a basket of reeds in the Nile River while Moses' sister Miriam watched from a distance to see who would come to find him.

The basket was found by the Pharaoh's daughter, who decided to raise the infant as her own son and named him Moses. She unknowingly hired Jochebed as a nurse to care for him, and Jochebed secretly taught Moses his Hebrew heritage.

At age 40, on a visit to see his fellow Israelites, Moses saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave and in his rage, killed the Egyptian. Fearing for his life, Moses fled Egypt. He fled across the desert, for the roads were watched by Egyptian soldiers, and took refuge in Midian, an area in present-day northwestern Saudi Arabia along the eastern shores of the Red Sea.

While in Midian, Moses met a Midianite priest named Jethro and became a shephard for the next 40 years, eventually marrying one of Jethro's daughters, Zipporah. Then when Moses was about 80 years of age, G-d spoke to him from a burning bush and said that he and his brother Aaron were selected by G-d to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt to freedom.

At first, Moses hesitated to take on such a huge task but eventually, Moses and his brother Aaron set about returning to Egypt, commencing what was to be the spectacular and dramatic events that are told in the story of Passover.

It is said that the Hebrews entered Egypt as a group of tribes and left Egypt as one nation. It has also been estimated that the Passover exodus population comprised about 600,000 men over the age of 20, with their wives and children making up the remaining amount totalling about 3 million people, plus numerous flocks of sheep who all crossed over the border of Egypt to freedom in Canaan during the Passover exodus from Egypt.

Under the reign of Pharaoh (King) Thutmose III in Egypt in 1476 B.C.E. (meaning 'Before Common Era', a Jewish substitute for BC), the Hebrew leader Moses led his people out of Egypt after a series of 10 plagues that were created by G-d and initiated by Moses.

Prior to most of the plagues, Moses had warned the Pharaoh about each plague and that it would devastate his people, if he refused to let them go. After each plague, the Pharaoh agreed to let the Hebrews go, but the Pharaoh soon changed his mind and continued to hold the Hebrews as slaves.

Finally, after the 10th plague, the Pharoah let the Hebrews go for good. However, after the Hebrews left in a hurry, in fact so quickly that they did not have time to bake any bread for the trip to Canaan (Palestine), and instead baked unleavened bread called Matzah, the Pharaoh, being very fickle, changed his mind after a short time and sent his army into the Sinai Desert after the Hebrews.

Meanwhile, the Hebrews were already deep into the wilderness of the Sinai desert and peninsula and continued to wander there for 40 years until they reached the Red Sea. The Egyptian army continued to look for them and finally spotted the Hebrews camped at the shores of the Red Sea.

When the Hebrews saw the Egyptian army fast approaching toward them, they called out in despair to Moses. Fortunately, G-d intervened and commanded Moses to strike his staff on the waters of the Red Sea creating a rift of land between the waves, enabling the Jews to cross through the Red Sea to safety on the other side. Once the Israelites were safely across, G-d then commanded Moses to strike the waters of the Red Sea with his staff again, just as the Egyptian army followed them through the parted Red Sea. The waters came together again, drowning the entire Egyptian army and the Hebrews were saved"
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