Since Shabbat is the first day of Passover, the Torah reading focuses on the Passover Story. Moses has repeatedly asked Pharoah to let God’s people go and Pharaoh’s stubbornness continues. Moses announces the final plague – the death of the firstborn – to Pharaoh, but once again Pharaoh doesn’t listen. God then tells Moses to instruct the Israelites to prepare a lamb to be slaughtered and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs on the 15th of Nisan, the night on which God will strike down all the Egyptian firstborn. Moreover, this date is to begin a seven-day celebration in subsequent years. Moses speaks to the elders and tells them to prepare for the first Passover, and the people do as they have been taught. The last horrible plague occurs and the firstborn of all Egyptians of all strata of society are dead. Finally, Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and tells them to take the Israelites and go immediately. The Israelites finally leave Egypt and march toward freedom. God gives Moses and Aaron the laws of the Passover festival that is to be observed in future years.
In this parasha, the results of the people’s courage and faith during the plagues are realized. It took a lot of courage for the Israelites to slaughter a lamb, which was one of the gods the Egyptians worshiped, and to spread the blood on the doorposts where their actions would be obvious. This act was a concrete symbol of the Israelite’s defiance of idolatry and their acknowledgment of their worship to God alone. As a result, the Israelite’s firstborn children are spared and the people are able to leave Egypt and begin the long journey home. As we celebrate the Passover each year, we are again reminded to consider what “idolatry” may mean in today’s day and age, and to make a conscious stand to promote goodness and peace in our world. This stand may take both faith to believe in humanity and courage to act on behalf of others, but it can also pave a path to peace that would not otherwise be possible.
Torah Study at the South Street Temple next week will focus on the Song of Songs, which is traditionally read at Passover.