Passover Seder
Passover Seder (Photo: Edsel Little)
Passover Seder
Passover Seder (Pho­to: Edsel Little)

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.

Passover reads:

Again, Hap­py Passover!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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