If you are observing Passover, which ends tonight at sundown, please accept best wishes from all of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute.
Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays. Along with Shavuot and Sukkot, it is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals — so named because the ancient Israelites were commanded to journey to the Temple in Jerusalem by the Torah to worship and participate in festivities held as part of each holiday.
Yesterday was Shvi’i shel Pesach (שביעי של פסח) — the seventh day of Passover; today is Acharon shel Pesach, the eighth day of Passover, which is celebrated by some Jewish denominations, but not all. On these, the last days of Passover, Jews commemorate the Crossing of the Red Sea, when Scripture says the Israelites escaped their Egyptian pursuers thanks to divine intervention from YHWH.
This passage from the Book of Exodus (Shermot 14:15–29) tells the story of that escape. The English text appears first, followed by the Hebrew text.
[T]he Lord said unto Moses: ‘Wherefore criest thou unto Me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.
ויאמר משה אלהעם אלתיראו התיצבו וראו אתישועת יהוה אשריעשה לכם היום כי אשר ראיתם אתמצרים היום לא תסיפו לראתם עוד עדעולם
And lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thy hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go into the midst of the sea on dry ground.
יהוה ילחם לכם ואתם תחרישון
And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall go in after them; and I will get Me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
ויאמר יהוה אלמשה מהתצעק אלי דבר אלבניישראל ויסעו
And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten Me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.’
ואתה הרם אתמטך ונטה אתידך עלהים ובקעהו ויבאו בניישראל בתוך הים ביבשה
And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud removed from before them, and stood behind them;
ואני הנני מחזק אתלב מצרים ויבאו אחריהם ואכבדה בפרעה ובכלחילו ברכבו ובפרשיו
and it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud and the darkness here, yet gave it light by night there; and the one came not near the other all the night. 21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
וידעו מצרים כיאני יהוה בהכבדי בפרעה ברכבו ובפרשיו
And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
ויסע מלאך האלהים ההלך לפני מחנה ישראל וילך מאחריהם ויסע עמוד הענן מפניהם ויעמד מאחריהם
And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
ויבא בין מחנה מצרים ובין מחנה ישראל ויהי הענן והחשך ויאר אתהלילה ולאקרב זה אלזה כלהלילה
And it came to pass in the morning watch, that the Lord looked forth upon the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of cloud, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians.
ויט משה אתידו עלהים ויולך יהוה אתהים ברוח קדים עזה כלהלילה וישם אתהים לחרבה ויבקעו המים
And He took off their chariot wheels, and made them to drive heavily; so that the Egyptians said: ‘Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
ויבאו בניישראל בתוך הים ביבשה והמים להם חמה מימינם ומשמאלם
And the Lord said unto Moses: ‘Stretch out thy hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.’
וירדפו מצרים ויבאו אחריהם כל סוס פרעה רכבו ופרשיו אלתוך הים
And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
ויהי באשמרת הבקר וישקף יהוה אלמחנה מצרים בעמוד אש וענן ויהם את מחנה מצרים
And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, even all the host of Pharaoh that went in after them into the sea; there remained not so much as one of them.
ויסר את אפן מרכבתיו וינהגהו בכבדת ויאמר מצרים אנוסה מפני ישראל כי יהוה נלחם להם במצרים2
But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Readers interested in Passover-themed reflections may want to read Rabbi Elliot Kukla’s ruminations on creating spaces in one’s life to grow. Ordained in 2006, Rabbi Elliot Kukla is part of the longest-serving rabbinical team in the greater San Francisco area, working out of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center. Rabbi Kukla has a history of organizing for economic justice with the Clergy and Laity for Economic Justice (CLUE), and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Prior to becoming a rabbi, he worked as an arts journalist in the Toronto area.
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Again, Happy Passover!