The History and the Symbolism of the Festival of Pesach
Around 3000 years ago, the Israelites who lived in Egypt were blamed
for all of the troubles of the country. They were enslaved by the
Pharaoh and forced to labour constantly under the whip to build
palaces and buildings for him.
This continued for years until one day, when King Herod threw all the
Israelite babies into the river, for fear of being overthrown, one
baby survived. He floated in a wicker basket down the Nile to the
palace of the Pharaoh himself. Moses, for this was the baby’s name,
grew up as a high class Egyptian but was always aware of his roots.
When he saw a slave driver whipping an Israelite, he killed the man
and ran away to become a shepherd far away.
One day, Moses saw a burning bush and was spoken to by God. Moses was
ordered by Him to go to the Pharaoh and the demand the freedom of his
Moses plea of “Let my people go” was ignored and God sent terrible
plagues to distress the Egyptians. Pharaoh continued to refuse the
release of the slaves.
Until the last plague.
Pesach, meaning "passing over" or "protection" in Hebrew, is derived
from the instructions given to Moses by God. In order to encourage the
Pharaoh to free the Israelites, God intended to kill the first-born of
every Egyptian family.
To protect themselves, the Israelites were told to mark their
dwellings with lamb's blood so that God could identify them and "pass
over" their homes.
During that night, the angel of death came and killed every first-born
son of the Egyptians. The Israelites were saved from this by the marks
on their doors and when the Pharaoh discovered his son was gone as
well he let Moses’ people go.
When the Pharaoh had finally agreed to freedom, the Israelites left
their homes so quickly that there wasn't even time to bake their
bread. They had to eat the unrisen dough. They all left the clutches
of the Pharaoh together but soon enough, Pharaoh changed his mind.
When the Israelites got the Red Sea, they began to lose hope, for the
armies were fast on their trail and they could never cross the sea to
It was then that a miracle occurred. The waves of the Red Sea parted
and the Israelites were able to cross to the other side. As soon as
they all reached the other side the sea closed trapping the Pharaoh's
army as the waves closed upon them.
It was then that the Israelites realised they were free from the
This is the story of the Passover and Pesach celebrates this history.
It was the single most important thing that ever happened to them, as
it marks the beginning of a new era and the start of the Jewish
Pesach is the first of three Pilgrim festivals that celebrate this
time in history. The Torah requires Jews to travel to the Promised