On Passover, we commemorate the Exodus from Egyptian slavery. The following is a brief summary:
Jacob’s family came to Egypt to escape a famine in Canaan. Joseph, Viceroy to Pharoah, settled his family in the land of Goshen, apart from the Egyptians.
Joseph’s contribution to Egyptian society was forgotten after his death, and the new Pharaoh, feeling threatened by the success of the Israelites, enslaved them with cruel and bitter labor.
Alerted to a prophecy that the Israelites would be led to freedom by a boy yet to be born, Pharaoh ordered all newborn Jewish boys cast into the Nile. Yocheved set her newborn son (Moses) adrift in the Nile in a basket, where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him.
Years later, Moses came upon an Egyptian beating an Israelite. Outraged, Moses slew the Egyptian, but then fled Egypt for fear that his action would be discovered. Moses took refuge in Midian with Jethro and married Jethro's daughter, Tziporah. While shepherding Jethro’s sheep, Moses came upon a burning bush which was not consumed, from which God instructed him to go back and lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
Moses, joined by his older brother Aaron, went to Pharaoh and demanded the release of the Israelites. Pharaoh repeatedly said no--nine times. Each time he said no, another plague (blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts and darkness) struck Egypt. Finally, God struck dead all the Egyptian first born. After this final tenth plague, Pharaoh finally said “yes” and the Jews left Egypt, matzah in hand.
Pharaoh changed his mind and chased the Israelites, who were eventually trapped between the Egyptian army and the Sea of Reeds. But the Sea miraculously split and they crossed safely while the Egyptians drowned in the returning waters. Only Pharaoh survived.
The Israelites then continued their journey to Mount Sinai, where they received the Torah.