THE DIVINE STAFF
G‑d created a wonderful staff when He created the world. It was made of sapphire and had the divine name engraved on it and ten Hebrew letters, the initials of the ten plagues that were to come to Egypt.

G‑d presented this staff to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Before Adam died he gave it to Henoch (Enoch) who later gave it to Shem. Shem left it to Abraham who passed it on to Isaac and Jacob.

Jacob took the staff with him to Egypt and presented it to Joseph. When Joseph died, his palace and all his possessions became the property of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Jethro, who was one of the king's counselors, saw this wonderful staff and took it.

Later, when he left King Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, he took the staff and planted it in his garden. Many a man admired this staff and wanted to steal it, but no one could move it from its place.

When Moses fled from Egypt and came to Midian he saw the divine staff in Jethro's garden. Knowing that it belonged to his people he took it. Jethro knew at once that Moses was a divine man and would be the leader of Israel. He received Moses very cordially and later gave him his daughter Zipporah for a wife.

When G‑d sent Moses to Pharaoh to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt, He told him to take this staff with hir and perform wonders with it in front of Pharaoh and th children of Israel.

Many years later King David had this staff, and some day it will turn up again in the hands of the Redeemer, the righteous Messiah, when he will come to redeem the Jewish people and lead them to the Land of Israel.

KING PHARAOH'S PALACE
There were four hundred entrances to king Pharaoh palace and all were very closely guarded by thousands of bodyguards and trained beasts, such as lions and tigers, which were enchanted by the king's sorcerers. No living being could pass through this barrier except by special invitation from the king.

Fearlessly Moses and Aaron came to the palace and made their way to the main entrance. Immediately the wild beasts surrounded them, but instead of tearing them to pieces they lay down before them and licked their feet as devoted dogs do to their masters.

Then the beasts rose and led the way into the palace. Inside the palace gates thousands of warriors guarded the entrance to the interior. They had orders to kill at sight any unbidden visitor, but when they saw Moses and Aaron they were filled with such awe and fright that all they could do was to form a guard of honor and salute them most respectfully.

At the doors of the next entrance two ferocious beasts lay chained. When Moses and Aaron appeared, the king's sorcerers released the beasts to maul them. How amazed were they to see that the beasts ran up to them wagging their tails affectionately, and accompanied them into the presence of the king.

MOSES AND AARON DELIVER THEIR MESSAGE
It was king Pharaoh's birthday, and many kings and princes had come to bring tribute and presents to the mighty king of Egypt. The king's birthday celebration was at its height when Moses and Aaron appeared so unexpectedly.

Pharaoh and all his royal guests were greatly startled at the sight of the two strange messengers, whose faces shone like the sun, whose eyes were deep and penetrating, and whose words were fiery and thunderous.

With profound respect and awe all the kings took off their crowns and bowed down before the divine-looking strangers. Finally Pharaoh asked them meekly, "What do you want?"

"The G‑d of the Hebrews sent us to you with a message, `Send my people free that they may serve Me!' "

Immediately Pharaoh ordered that the Book of Records be brought before him. The names of the gods of all the nations of the world were recorded in that book.

He searched and searched but could find no trace of the G‑d of the Hebrews.

"You will not find our G‑d recorded there," said Moses. "Our G‑d is everywhere; He created heaven and earth; He is the All Powerful, the Eternal, the Only G‑d . . . ."

"I do not know your G‑d," said Pharaoh. "He has never sent me any present, nor any word of greeting . . . ."

Moses then threw his staff on the floor and it turned into a serpent. But Pharaoh laughed and said: "If you are a sorcerer I have plenty of my own .... As for Israel, I shall never send them free. They are my slaves, and shall serve me alone!"

THE PLAGUES
Pharaoh was as stubborn as he was wicked, and not before G‑d sent the ten plagues on Pharaoh and Egypt did he acknowledge his defeat and set the Jewish People free, nay, drove them out.

Every plague that G‑d sent upon Egypt was intended not merely to punish them for their wickedness, but also to show them and the whole world that G‑d had taken up the cause of his people Israel.

It was a lesson to the Egyptians and at the same time it brought unspeakable joy and encouragement to the persecuted and oppressed children of Israel and made them recognize the divine power and protection they enjoyed.

It would take the whole night of the Seder to relate all the wonders and miracles which G‑d wrought in Egypt in those days, and still more would be left to relate. But to mention just a few ....

WATER AND BLOOD

The first plague, as you know, was Blood. The waters of the Nile turned into blood. The Nile was sacred to the Egyptians; they worshipped it, for upon its waters the whole welfare of the land of Egypt depended. But for the Nile, Egypt would have been a desert. Therefore G‑d smote their G‑d first.

At the same time, all waters in Egypt turned into blood. There was not a drop of clear water left for drinking purposes. Only the waters of the Israelites remained clear and fresh. If an Israelite and an Egyptian owned a well jointly, the Israelite drew clear and fresh water from it, but the Egyptian could only draw blood from the very same well.

If an Egyptian saw an Israelite carry a pail of water and robbed him of it, it turned immediately into blood .... Only if the Egyptian bought it from the Israelite or received it as a gift from him would the water be drinkable. It was a terrible punishment for the Egyptians, but that was only the first plague.

BORDER DISPUTE SETTLED
The plague of Frogs was even worse. It looked as if the swarms of frogs had definite addresses. They filled every Egyptian dwelling, but never entered a Jewish dwelling. There was no getting rid of them. They turned up in the most unexpected places and were a terrible nuisance.

Strangest of all, the frogs remained within the borders of Egypt, and never crossed the borderline. Now, for many years the Egyptians had a dispute with the Abyssinians about their border and could not determine where Egypt ended and Abyssinia began. But when the frogs came over Egypt there was no more doubt as to where the borderline lay.

THE JUNGLE BREAKS LOOSE
The various animals, beasts and birds of the zoo present a fascinating sight for young and old. But this is so only when the inmates of the zoo are safely behind bars.

Imagine if all the animals, birds and reptiles of the zoo suddenly broke loose and began to roam the streets and dwellings at will!

Such was the terror of the fourth plague, but multiplied many times.

Appearing first at the king's palace, swarms of various ferocious beasts and birds who had left their habitat in the jungle or in the slimy depths of the Nile, began to roam all over Egypt. Lions, tigers, crocodiles and all kinds of winged monsters were mixed together, and though they had made peace among themselves, they made no peace with the Egyptians.

For a whole week they terrified the wits out of the Egyptians, and gave them a taste of what their poor Hebrew slaves had suffered when their overlords used them as bait for catching wild animals. Only Goshen was free from the plague.

But after a week, at Moses' word, the wild animals disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared. Not a single animal was left, dead or alive, so that the Egyptians would not have any fur coats as a gift from G‑d.

WHEN FIRE AND ICE MADE PEACE
The gardens and orchards which the Hebrew slaves were forced to plant and tend for their Egyptian overlords were in full bloom, for it was spring, and Egypt, the oasis in the desert, truly looked like a "Divine Garden." But in one week nothing was left of the blooming gardens, flowers and shrubs.

They were all destroyed by the hailstorm. This was no ordinary hailstorm. It was not only the enormous size of the hail stones that dealt the death blow to man and beast, flower and tree exposed to it. Each hail stone had the appearance of a strange little lamp, with a fire burning inside the icicle.

For once, fire and ice had made peace to strike at a common enemy. Where the hailstone struck, it was not only a keen frostbite but also a fiery scald that killed and destroyed.

A HOPE GONE WITH THE WIND
The plague of locust came after the usual warning. Countless millions of locust swarmed in the sky, so that the light of the sun was completely hidden by the thick clouds of buzzing locust.

The locusts settled on the whole land of Egypt and soon devoured everything that grew forth from the fertile soil of Egypt. Not a single flower, not a green leaf, not even a blade of grass remained in Egypt. The once blooming garden was laid waste and barren.

There was only one consolation for the Egyptians in this terrible punishment. Locust, you know, serves as a delicacy in eastern countries and can be preserved and pickled, and the Egyptians knew this art.

Many Egyptians, therefore, caught the locusts and pickled them in casks and jars and dots and cauldrons, and prepared to make a feast. Thank Heaven, they thought, there is at least one consolation in this terrible calamity, the larder has been amply replenished.

In the meantime, Pharaoh was receiving reports of the untold damage which the plague was causing in his land. He immediately sent for Moses and Aaron and said to them humbly: "Forgive me, please. I know I have sinned to G‑d. I have also been disrespectful to you. Please, pray to your G‑d that He free me and my people from this pest."

Moses felt sorry for the king and prayed to G‑d. His prayers barely finished, a mighty westerly wind began to blow. It clean lifted the vast swarms of locusts and swept them away.

The locusts disappeared as suddenly as they had come. How dismayed were the Egyptians when they found that the locusts had disappeared also from the jars, pots and cauldrons, where they lay pickled! Not a single locust remained in Egypt, dead or alive!

THE BLACKOUT
As soon as Pharaoh and his people were rid of the locusts, and grass began to grow again and the flowers began to blossom once more, Pharaoh changed his mind. No, he would not send the children of Israel free! Come what might!

After several other plagues that plagued the life out of the Egyptians had come and gone, G‑d brought a spell of darkness over Egypt. No Egyptian or any human being ever saw such a complete "blackout."

It was no use trying to light a fire. The darkness was terrifying. Those Egyptians who were sitting when this darkness came, remained seated; those who were standing remained standing.

It was not only to punish the Egyptians for ill-treating the children of Israel that G‑d had brought this darkness over Egypt, but also to punish some wicked and unfaithful Jews.

Yes, there were some Jews, some assimilated Jews, who considered themselves happy enough in Egypt, and did not care about their enslaved brethren. They had no faith in G‑d and wanted to remain in Egypt. And they did.

For when darkness engulfed the Egyptians these unfaithful Jews died and were buried in Egypt. But the Egyptians could not see that some Jews were being punished too.

The true and faithful Jews, however, were not disturbed by any darkness. To them the days were brighter than ever. The sun shone brightly by day, and at night the stars sparkled and twinkled as always.

During those dark days for the Egyptians the Hebrew slaves had a complete vacation from their cruel taskmasters. They went in and out of their masters' houses.

It must have been a very strange sight to see these mighty lords of Egypt so utterly helpless. They sat motionless, with their eyes open but seeing absolutely nothing.

The children of Israel went about freely, admiring the spacious rooms, the golden and silver ware of the Egyptians, the vast wealth they had accumulated from the days of Joseph and through the enforced bondage of the children of Israel for many, many years.

But they took nothing. They would not steal. G‑d Himself was to punish them. Nor did they walk out of Egypt, which would have been so easy, for the hour of liberation had not struck yet. Such was the wonderful discipline of the erstwhile slaves!

BELATED WAGES
Nine plagues had come and gone, but Pharaoh learnt no lesson.

"One more plague will I bring upon Pharaoh and his people," said G‑d unto Moses, "and then he shall send you out of here, and shall no longer mock you.

Now, go and speak to the children of Israel that they borrow from the Egyptians silver and golden ware, so that they leave Egypt loaded with wealth. I shall make them find favor in the eyes of the Egyptians and their requests shall not be refused."

Thereupon Moses went to his brethren and told them what G‑d had said.

The children of Israel went out to borrow silver and golden vessels from their masters.

"But I have no such vessels," the Egyptian would say.

"Oh yes, you have," came the reply. "I'll even tell you where you keep it."

"But how on earth do you know?" the Egyptian would ask in amazement.

"Well, you see," the Israelite would explain, "when G‑d brought darkness over Egypt for a few days, I visited you to see how you were faring. I could not help seeing all those precious things."

The Egyptian was very impressed by the honesty of the Jew who would not steal or kill even when it was so easy. So he gladly gave him whatever he asked for.

The Israelites thus received quite a good deal of precious valuables, but even so it was only a very small compensation for the hard labor that they had rendered to the Egyptians for many generations without getting paid for it.