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- 3,600 hundred years ago, the Passover Exodus catapulted the Jewish people from the lowest ebb of spiritual and physical servitude in Egypt to the highest level of liberty in the Land of Israel.
- According to Heinrich Heine, the 19th century German poet, “Since the Exodus, freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent.”
- In 1850, Harriet Tubman, who was one of the leaders of the “Underground Railroad” – an Exodus of Afro-American slaves to freedom – was known as “Mama Moses.” She embraced Moses’ “Let my people go”.
Paul Robeson and Louis Armstrong leveraged the liberty theme of Passover through the lyrics: “When Israel was in Egypt’s land, let my people go! Oppressed so hard they could not stand, let my people go! Go down Moses, way down in Egypt’s land; tell old Pharaoh to let my people go….!”
On December 11, 1964, upon accepting the Nobel Prize, Martin Luther King, Jr., “the Moses of his age”, said: “The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in Pharaoh’s court centuries ago and cried, ‘Let my people go!’”
- The Exodus is mentioned 50 times in the Five Books of Moses, equal to the 50 years of the Jubilee – the Biblical foundation of liberty – which is featured on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (installed in 1751 upon the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges): “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof (Leviticus, 25:10).” Moses received the Torah – which includes 50 gates of wisdom – 50 days following the Exodus, as celebrated by the Shavou’ot/Pentecost Holiday, 50 days following Passover. Moreover, there are 50 States in the United States, whose Hebrew name is ארצות הברית, which means “The States of the Covenant.”
The goal of Passover’s liberty was not revenge, neither imperialistic, nor the subjugation of the Egyptian people, but the veneration of liberty throughout the globe, including in Egypt.
- According to the late Prof. Yehudah Elitzur, one of Israel’s pioneers of Biblical research, the Exodus took place in the second half of the 15th century BCE, during the reign of Egypt’s Amenhotep II. Accordingly, the 40-year national coalescing of the Jewish people – while wandering in the desert – took place when Egypt was ruled by Thutmose IV. Joshua conquered Canaan when Egypt was ruled by Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV, who were so preoccupied with domestic affairs that they refrained from expansionist operations. Moreover, letters which were discovered in Tel el Amarna, the capital city of ancient Egypt, documented that the 14th century BCE Pharaoh, Amenhotep IV, was informed by the rulers of Jerusalem, Samaria and other parts of Canaan, about a military offensive launched by the “Habirus” (Hebrews and other Semitic tribes), which corresponded to the timing of Joshua’s offensive against the same rulers. Amenhotep IV was a determined reformer, who introduced monotheism, possibly influenced by the ground-breaking and game-changing Exodus.
- The annual celebration of the Passover legacy (e.g., the Exodus, Parting of the Sea, the Ten Commandments, the Covenant during the 40 years in the desert, and the reentry to the Land of Israel) aims at commemorating, refreshing and upgrading core values, which are prerequisites to a free and vibrant society:*Faith;
*Physical and spiritual liberty must not be taken for granted;
*Education of all ages;
*Defiance of odds, pessimism and fatalism;
*Optimism in face of adversity (crises are opportunities in disguise);
*Family and communal cohesion;
*Communal and national solidarity and responsibility;
*Sustained study of historic, religious and cultural roots, in order to learn from – and avoid – past mistakes, while enhancing the present and the future.
- Passover highlights the central role of women in Jewish history. For instance, Yocheved, Moses’ mother, hid Moses and then breastfed him at the palace of Pharaoh, posing as a nursemaid. Miriam, Moses’ older sister, was her brother’s keeper. Batyah, the daughter of Pharaoh, saved and adopted Moses (Numbers 2:1-10). Shifrah and Pou’ah, two Jewish midwives, risked their lives, sparing the lives of Jewish male babies, in violation of Pharaoh’s command (Numbers 1:15-19). Tziporah, a daughter of Jethro and Moses’ wife, saved the life of Moses and set him back on the Jewish course (Numbers, 4:24-27). They followed in the footsteps of Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel, the Matriarchs (who engineered, in many respects, the roadmap of the Patriarchs), Deborah (the Prophetess, Judge and military commander), Hannah (Samuel’s mother), Yael (who killed Sisera, the Canaanite General) and Queen Esther, the heroine of Purim and one of the seven Biblical Jewish Prophetesses (Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah and Esther).
- Passover is the first of the three Jewish pilgrimages to Jerusalem, followed by Shavou’ot (Pentecost), which commemorates the receipt of the Ten Commandments, and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), which was named after Sukkota – the first stop in the Exodus.
- How long has Jerusalem been the exclusive capital of the Jewish people and the Jewish State? Since the 586 BCE destruction of Jerusalem and the First Jewish Temple, the annual Passover Seder (on the eve of Passover) is concluded by the declaration: “Next Year in the rebuilt Jerusalem!”
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