The Eighth Plague: Locusts

10:1 On Tevet 15, 2448, God told Moses and Aaron to announce the eighth plague—locusts. On the last day of the warning period, God said to Moses, "Come to Pharaoh to warn him again to release the people. For even though I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, and it would therefore seem that it is pointless to warn him,1 it is so that I may demonstrate these miraculous signs of Mine in his midst,

2 and so that you may recount to your children and grandchildren how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My miraculous signs among them. When you warn him, he and his courtiers will take this warning seriously, but he will still not be able to bring himself to let the people go. This will make the Egyptians look ridiculous and demonstrate how, despite their power, they are Mine to do with as I wish.2 You will then realize that I am God. Also, by warning him, you will intimate to him that despite the fact that I have hardened his heart, if he truly wishes to he can still repent."3

3 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, "This is what God, God of the Hebrews, has said: 'Until when will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go so they may serve Me!

4 For if you refuse to let My people leave, I will bring locusts into your territory tomorrow.

5 They will cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the ground. They will consume the surviving remnant that was left for you after the hail, and they will eat away all your trees that grow in the field.

6 Your houses and all your courtiers' houses and the houses of all the Egyptians will be filled with them—something that your fathers and your fathers' fathers have never seen from the day they appeared on earth until this day.' " And with that he turned and left the presence of Pharaoh.

7 As God had said, the Egyptians—for the first time—took Moses' warning seriously:4 Pharaoh's courtiers said to him, "How long will this person continue to be a snare for us? Let the men go, and let them serve God, their God! Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?"

8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh and he said to them, "Go and serve God, your God. Exactly who will be going?"

9 Moses replied, "We will go with our young people and with our elders. We will go with our sons and with our daughters, with our sheep and our cattle, for it is a festival of God for us."

10 Pharaoh said sarcastically to them, "Bah! May God only be with you like I will let you leave with your children! I have no intention of letting your children go, for you do not need them to perform your religious rites in the desert! The fact that you are asking to take them reveals your true intentions: You are not planning on going for a three-day holiday; you are planning to flee the country altogether! Therefore, look: your evil intent will backfire and I will not let you go at all! Furthermore, I am warning you: look, a bad omen, the star Ra'ah ['evil'], which foretells blood and slaughter, is rising against you in the desert. It will be perilous for you to journey now.

11 In any case, it is not at all as you say—that your children have to accompany you! You menfolk go and serve God, for that is what you are asking for! You are asking to sacrifice; children do not sacrifice!" And they were expelled from Pharaoh's presence.

Second Reading 12 So, on the 8th of Shevat, God said to Moses, "Raise your arm over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they will come up over the land of Egypt. They will eat all the grass in the land, whatever the hail left behind."

13 Moses raised his staff over the land of Egypt, and all that day and night God directed an east wind over the land. When morning came, the east wind had carried the locusts into the country.

14 The locusts came up over the whole land of Egypt and descended over all the territory of Egypt, very severely; never before had there been such a plague of locusts, and never again will there be anything like it—that such complete devastation be caused by only one species of locust.

15 They covered the entire surface of the land so that the land became dark. They ate all the grass of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left over; no greenery was left on the trees or among the grass of the field, throughout all the land of Egypt.

16 Pharaoh hastily summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "I have sinned against God, your God, and against you.

17 So now, please forgive my offense just this once, and entreat God, your God, just to remove this death from me!"

18 Moses left Pharaoh's presence and pleaded with God.

19 God thereupon reversed the wind direction, causing a very strong west wind to blow, and it carried away the locusts and plunged them into the eastern arm of the Sea of Reeds, the Gulf of Aqaba. Not a single locust remained within all Egypt's borders—not even those the Egyptians had killed and salted.

20 But once again God hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the Israelites leave.

The Ninth plague: Darkness

21 On the 15th of Shevat, God told Moses to announce the ninth plague—darkness. On the 8th of Adar, after the warning period was over, God said to Moses, "Raise your arm towards the sky so that there will be darkness upon the land of Egypt, and the darkness will be darker than night—so dark that it will be palpable."

22 So Moses raised his hand towards the sky. This plague lasted for only six days rather than a full week5: First, there was an opaque darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days.

23 No Egyptian man could see his brother, but the darkness did not obstruct the Israelites' vision. During these first three days,6 the Israelites who did not want to leave Egypt—four-fifths of the population—died.7 This happened specifically when the Egyptians could not see it so they should not be able to think that these Jews were dying of the same cause that the Egyptians died of during the plagues. For the next three days, the darkness became so palpable that no Egyptian who was sitting when it started could rise from his place, and no Egyptian who was standing when it started could sit down. The Israelites, however, canvassed the Egyptians' dwellings freely during these three days,8 taking note of the Egyptians' possessions and where they kept them. Furthermore, during these six days, there was light for all the Israelites in their dwellings; the darkness did not cover the district of Goshen.9

Third Reading 24 On the 13th of Adar, the last day of darkness, Pharaoh called for Moses and said, "Go, serve God—only your flocks and cattle shall remain behind to ensure your return. Even your children may go with you."

25 Moses replied, "Not only will our flocks and cattle go with us, you will even provide us with some of your animals for sacrifices and ascent-offerings so that we may offer them up to God, our God.

26 Our livestock must also go along with us, not a hoof shall remain, for some of them we must take for the service of God, our God, and we will not know with what we will serve God until—i.e, how many sacrifices He will require—we arrive there. Maybe He will require more than just our own animals."

27 Yet God toughened Pharaoh's heart and he was not willing to let the people leave.

28 Pharaoh then said to Moses, "Leave my presence! Take care never to see my face again, for the day you see my face you will die!"

29 Moses replied, "You have spoken rightly only in that once I leave, I will never see your face again."

The Tenth Plague: The Firstborn

11:1 Just at that moment, while Moses and Aaron were still standing in front of Pharaoh, God said to Moses, "One more plague I shall send upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt: I will kill every firstborn at exactly midnight of the 15th of Nisan. After that, he will send you forth from this place. And when he sends you forth, he will utterly drive all of you out of here.

2 Please speak to the people and let them request—each man from his friend and every woman from her friend—utensils of silver and gold. This way their forefather Abraham will not be able to accuse Me of only fulfilling My promise to enslave his descendants and not My promise to enrich them when they leave."10

3 Later, after Moses left Pharaoh's court, he conveyed this instruction to the people, and they carried it out without delay.11 Since they had inspected the Egyptians' homes during the plague of darkness,12 they knew where their utensils and valuables were kept. So if they asked for something and the Egyptians denied having it, they could reply that they know they have it and even where it is kept.13 Despite this, God made the people find favor in the eyes of the Egyptians. Moreover, by this time, Moses himself was highly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both by Pharaoh's courtiers and by the people.

Fourth Reading 4 But before all this, while Moses and Aaron were still standing before Pharaoh, Moses turned and said to Pharaoh, "This is what God has said: 'Whereas I smote you with the preceding nine plagues via emissaries, I am going to administer this final one Myself.14 The proof of this will be that it will occur exactly at midnight: it will not just begin at midnight, but it will take place entirely in the infinitesimal instance that marks the exact midpoint of the night. Only I can strike so precisely, and only I can administer a plague instantaneously.' " Alternatively, God told Moses that this plague was going to occur exactly at midnight, but Moses—afraid that Pharaoh's astrologers would miscalculate when midnight was and thereby impute this inaccuracy to God—hesitated to announce that the plague would occur exactly at midnight. (He did not want to use a water clock or sandglass, since the astrologers could easily tamper with these.15 And since this was at night, Moses could not use the sundial-type sign he had used to indicate the exact moment when the plague of hail would occur.16) He therefore said, " 'At about midnight on the 15th of Nisan, the next month, I will go forth in the midst of Egypt.

5 Every firstborn in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh sitting on his throne to the firstborn of the maidservant behind the millstones, as well as every firstborn animal. The maidservants' firstborn will die because they, too, mistreated the Israelites and enjoyed seeing them suffer. The firstborn of Egypt's animals will die because the Egyptians worshipped them as gods.17 The firstborn of Egypt's prisoners, too, will die,18 both because they, too, enjoyed seeing the Israelites suffer,19 and also so they will not be able to claim that their gods are punishing the Egyptians for enslaving them.

6 There will be a great outcry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as never has been and never will be again.

7 As a result of this outcry, all the dogs in the vicinity of the Egyptians will get overexcited and start barking ferociously. This will exacerbate the Egyptians terror. But among the Israelites, they will only bark benignly as they do whenever the moon is out; no dog will whet its tongue ferociously against any person or even any beast. No animal will be frightened and run away, so all our cattle will leave with us, as I have said.20 This is in order that you may know that God is differentiating between the Egyptians and Israel.21

8 All these courtiers of yours [i.e., you—he spoke euphemistically out of respect for Pharaoh's office—] will then come and prostrate themselves before me and say, "Leave, you and all the people who follow your counsel!" After that I will leave Egypt with all my people.' " Having finished speaking, he left Pharaoh's presence in hot anger over Pharaoh's warning never to see his face again.

9 God then said to Moses, "Pharaoh will not listen to you, in order that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. Besides the slaying of the firstborn, there are still more wonders that I will perform when you leave."22

10 Moses and Aaron had performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but God toughened Pharaoh's heart and he did not let the Israelites leave his land. In recognition of the part Aaron faithfully played in these events, God addressed the following passage—the first official commandment addressed to the Israelites as a people—to him as well as to Moses.

The Passover Offering

12:1 On the 1st of Nisan, at sunset—when the moon becomes visible—God said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, outside the idol-filled city, after showing them the new moon:

2 "This stage of the moon's monthly renewal will signal the beginning of every new month." Moses was not sure how big the new moon must be in order to signal the beginning of a new month, so God told him to look at the moon as it was right then, and said, "Like this." God continued, "This month, Nisan, shall be for you the beginning of the months; it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.

3 It will soon be time for Me to fulfill My promise to Abraham to redeem his progeny from slavery.23 But since they have neglected fulfilling My commandments for so long, they lack sufficient merits to warrant this. I will therefore now give them two general commandments to fulfill: the Passover offering, which embodies all the active commandments, and circumcision, which embodies all the passive commandments. Speak together to the entire community of Israel today, on the first of the month, saying: 'On the tenth of this month each family must designate a lamb or a kid to be its Passover sacrifice, which they will slaughter on the fourteenth of the month. The obligation to designate the lamb or kid on the tenth of the month applies this time only; in subsequent years, there will be no such requirement. This is because the people have become addicted to idolatry, and the sheep is one of the deities of Egypt. By slaughtering the sheep, the Israelites will be denying the divinity of this deity, and by holding it for this purpose for four full days they will be weaning and cleansing themselves from their attachment to idol worship. Just as I made Abraham wait four days before almost sacrificing Isaac in order to ensure that he was fulfilling My command deliberately and not impulsively,24 so should they spend four days preparing to slaughter the sheep in order to break their attachment to idolatry.25 Since idolatry is the negation of the entire Torah, by foreswearing idolatry they will in effect be fulfilling all the passive commandments of the Torah. In order for them to acquire the merit of fulfilling active commandments, let all the males who have not yet done so26 be circumcised on the night of the fourteenth, before eating the Passover sacrifice.27 Since circumcision is the sign of the covenant between Abraham's progeny and Me, this commandment in effect embodies all the Torah's active commandments.28 As to how many people will share each lamb or kid: each man among them who heads an extended family-unit shall take for himself a lamb or kid for his extended family, unless the extended family is so big that not everyone will be able to eat a kezayit (38 grams or 1 1/3 ounce) of the lamb or kid. In such a case, they should take a lamb or kid for each nuclear family.

4 On the other hand, if the nuclear family is too small to require a lamb or kid, then the family-head and a neighbor who is close to his home shall take one together, according to the number of people, for it is forbidden to leave any of the meat of the offering uneaten (or unburned) until morning. If, after forming a group to eat a specific lamb or kid together, someone wants to leave this group and join another, this may be done only before the animal is slaughtered. You shall be counted for the lamb or kid according to what each individual eats. Thus, the sick or elderly, who cannot eat a kezayit, are not counted.

5 You shall use a flawless young male animal in its first year for this offering; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.

6 You shall keep watch over it, making sure it does not develop any blemish, until the fourteenth day of this month, i.e., for a minimum of four days. This obligation does apply to all future Passover offerings; it is only the obligation to designate a specific lamb or kid as the Passover offering on the tenth that applies this time only.' The entire assembled community of Israel shall then slaughter their sacrifices in the afternoon of the fourteenth, in three shifts. Although only one person will slaughter each lamb or kid on behalf of the group, since a person's designated substitute is his legal proxy, it will be as if they all slaughtered it.

7 When slaughtering the lamb or kid, they shall collect the blood in a basin.29 They shall take some of the blood that has been collected this way and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel inside30 the houses in which they will eat the sacrifice. They do not need to put any of the blood on structures not used for dwelling.

8 They shall eat the meat on that night, but they only need to eat the meat—not the sinews or bones. They shall eat it roasted over fire, with matzah, and together with bitter herbs, the latter to remind them of the bitterness of the exile from which I am redeeming them.

9 Tell them: 'Do not eat any of it half-cooked or cooked in water or any other liquid, but only roasted over fire whole, together with its head, its legs, and its internal organs, after you have rinsed the latter.' The instruction to eat it roasted is phrased both positively (in the previous verse) and negatively (in this verse) in order to make someone who eats it any other way liable for transgressing both an active and a passive commandment.

10 You shall not leave any of it over until morning. Any of it that is left over until morning, i.e., dawn, you shall burn in fire. However, you should not burn this leftover meat on the morning of the holiday itself; you should wait until the morning of the next day.

11 And this is how you shall eat it: with your waist belted, prepared to travel, your shoes on your feet, your staff in your hand, and you shall eat it in haste. This offering shall be known as 'the Passover offering to God,' because when I kill the firstborn of Egypt, I will pass over any Israelite firstborn that happens to be among the Egyptians, as will be explained presently. Furthermore, you are to perform the rites associated with this offering in an energetic, hasty manner, reminiscent of how I 'jumped' from house to house to rescue you.

12 I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night in order to begin your redemption from exile, and the first act in this process is that I will instantaneously31 strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, whether man or beast. Since the men sinned first, they will be killed first; since the beasts were only used to oppress the people, they will be killed second. I will also kill all the firstborn of other non-Jewish nations that happen to be in Egypt, and all the Egyptian firstborn that happen not to be in Egypt at that time. Upon all the gods of Egypt I will mete out chastisements: wooden idols will rot; metal idols will melt. I, God, will mete out these chastisements Myself, and not through any emissary.

13 The blood will serve you as a sign on the houses in which you are: I will see that you did what I told you to do with the blood and in this merit I will pass over you, and there will be no destructive plague among you when I strike Egypt. But an Egyptian firstborn who happens to be in your home will nonetheless be killed.' " It was necessary to "pass over" the Israelites for two reasons: because there were Egyptian houses in the Jewish region of Goshen,32 and because—despite God's commandment not to leave their own homes until morning33—there were some Jews in Egyptian houses that night.34

14 " 'This day, the 15th of Nisan, shall become a day of remembrance for you, and you shall celebrate it as a festival to God; once you enter the Promised Land35 you shall celebrate it as an everlasting statute throughout all your generations, as follows:

15 For seven days, from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan, you shall eat matzos whenever you would like to eat bread, but just eating matzah is not enough: on the previous day, the 14th of Nisan, you shall clear your houses of leavening agents, for the soul of anyone who eats leavened food intentionally from the first day until the seventh day will be cut off from Israel—he will die prematurely and childless.36

16 The first day of these seven shall be designated a holy day and the seventh day shall be designated for you as a holy day, on which you should wear fine clothes and eat and drink special foods, and on which no work may be done, even by having others do it for you. The only exception to this is work that is required to be done to prepare any person or animal's food—that alone may be done for you. But this exception does not include any type of food preparation that could just as effectively have been done before the holy day, nor any type of food preparation for non-Jews.

17 You shall be vigilant regarding the matzos, taking care when baking them that they do not rise. Similarly, you should be vigilant regarding all the commandments I will give you, performing each one at the earliest opportunity and not letting it figuratively become "stale." For on this very day I will have brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt and I did not leave you in Egypt one moment longer than necessary. And you shall observe this day as a day of cessation from work not only this year but throughout all your generations as an everlasting statute.

18 As mentioned previously,37 throughout the seven days of the holiday, eating matzos is optional (as long as you do not eat leaven). But in the first month, Nisan, in the evening following the fourteenth day of the month, it is obligatory: you shall eat matzos. The prohibition against eating leaven applies not only to the seven days but to the nights before them, as well—from the evening of the 15th until the evening of the 21st day of the month.

19 For seven days no leavening agents may be found in your homes, i.e., in any place under your authority, for—as will be seen in the next verse—the prohibition against eating leaven applies not only to leavened food but also to leavening agents: the soul of anyone who eats leavening agents will be cut off from the community of Israel—he will die prematurely and childless38whether he be a convert, whose ancestors did not participate in the miracle of the Exodus, or a native of the land, whose ancestors did.

20 You must not eat any leavening agent, even if it is mixed together with some other food. Regarding the matzos you must eat on the first night of Passover, you shall eat matzos that can be eaten wherever you live. This will exclude matzos that have been set aside as the second tithe39 or matzos that are part of a thanksgiving offering,40 which will only be permitted to eat in the city surrounding the Temple.' "

Fifth Reading 21 Although God had given Moses and Aaron instructions both regarding the Passover sacrifice and the observance of the Passover holiday the people would observe in the future, Moses decided to first conveyed only the laws pertaining to the sacrifice, since it was a hectic time, and only these laws were immediately pertinent.41 Moses summoned the elders of Israel. God had told Moses and Aaron to address the people together. Each of them deferred to the other, asking him to begin the address until, miraculously, God's message issued from the space between them, giving the impression they were both speaking simultaneously.42 In this way, Moses and Aaron said to them the details of the Passover sacrifice mentioned earlier, plus the following, which God had also told Moses: "Draw yourselves away from idolatry and replace your addiction to it with the activity of fulfilling God's commandments,43 as follows: Draw forth lambs or kids for your families from your own flocks, if you have, or acquire them for yourselves in the market, and slaughter the Passover offering.

22 You shall then take a bundle of three stalks of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is collected in the basin, and apply some of the blood in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts. Dip the bundle in the blood before each application. Even though God has promised to spare you, none of you—even those who are not firstborn—may go out of the entrance of his house until morning, because at nighttime destructive angels have free reign and do not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, and if any of you perishes, the Egyptians will claim that God's assurance that none of you will be harmed44 was not fulfilled.45

23 God will pass through Egypt to begin your redemption; the first part of this act will be for Him to strike Egypt by killing all their firstborn.46 He will see that you have put the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts. In this merit, God will pass over the entrance to your houses, and not allow the destructive plague to enter your houses.

24 You shall observe the practices and sacrifice of Passover as a statute for you and your children forever, once you have entered the Land of Israel.

25 Only once you have come into the land that God will give you, as He has spoken,47 you shall maintain this service. As long as you will be in transit on the way to the Land of Israel, you are not required to observe this holiday unless God tells you to do so explicitly.

26 And it shall come to pass, when your children ask you about the Passover offering, there might be among them rebellious children who phrase their question: 'What is this service of yours?' They will refer to the service as 'yours' to imply that they would rather not participate in it themselves.48

27 You shall answer, 'It is the Passover offering to God, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He plagued the Egyptians, and spared our homes.' " When they heard what Moses told the elders, the people bowed down and prostrated themselves in thanksgiving for God's promise of redemption, His reiteration of His promise to give them the Land of Israel, and for blessing them with the promise of children.

28 The Israelites resolved immediately to fulfill these instructions at their proper time, and therefore God considered it as if they went and did so immediately. He credited them for their good intentions, their praiseworthy actions, and even for the efforts they made in preparing to fulfill His will. When the time came, the Israelites did everything just as God had instructed Moses and Aaron, not omitting a single detail. And Moses and Aaron did so, also.

The Tenth Plague: The Firstborn, continued

Sixth Reading 29 It was exactly at midnight of the 15th of Nisan that God, in concurrence with the heavenly court, struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, even those who were not Egyptian,49 from the firstborn of Pharaoh sitting on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner in the dungeon, as well as every firstborn animal.50 The only exception to this was Pharaoh himself: although he was a firstborn, God spared him in order for him to witness the miracle of the splitting of the sea and drown then. This plague did not last a full week, as did the others; it took place in one single moment.51

30 Pharaoh rose from his bed in the night: he first, and then he awoke all his courtiers in their homes. And all the Egyptians awoke, too, and there was a great outcry in Egypt, for there was no house where there was not someone dead. If there was a firstborn son in the house, he died; if not, the head of the household (who may figuratively termed its "firstborn") died. In addition, since the Egyptians were steeped in adultery, there were often many firstborn in the same household, each the firstborn of the housewife by another paramour.

31 Pharaoh searched all the entrances of the city and called out for Moses and Aaron in the night. When he found them, he said, "Get up and get out from among my people, you adults and the young children of Israel, too, and go and serve God as you said!

32 Take both your flocks and your cattle, just as you said—and not as I said, that you may not go,52 that only your adults may go,53 that your flocks may not go54and go! And bless me too, that I not die, for I am also a firstborn!" There were some Israelites who were reluctant to leave, because they were wary of venturing forth into the barren, unknown desert. They felt that now that the Egyptians had suffered so much from the plagues, they would be more inclined to treat the Israelites better. But these people had no chance to remain in Egypt, because Pharaoh was so distraught by the final plague that he forcibly drove every Israelite out of the country.55 Still, Pharaoh sent some of his officers with the people to make sure they stayed away only for three days, as they had said.56

33 Some of the Jews had second thoughts about leaving, but the Egyptians urged the people on, hurrying them out of the land, for they said, "We are all dying! It is worse than Moses said it would be: not only the firstborn, but the rest of us—sometimes ten in the same household—are dying, too!" They did not realize that all those who were dying were technically firstborn.57

34 The people had eaten their matzah with the Passover offering as they had been commanded, in the first half of the night. Now, in the early morning, the people had started to bake bread for the new day. But the Egyptians hurried them on their way, so the people took their dough before it had leavened—so the bread they ate on this day was matzah, also—with their leftover food (the matzah and bitter herbs left from the previous night's meal) wrapped in their clothes on their shoulders. They could have had their animals carry these leftovers, but they preferred to carry them themselves because they cherished them since they had used them to fulfill God's commandment.

35 In addition to having asked the Egyptians for utensils and clothing before the plague of the firstborn,58 the Israelites now did again as Moses had said, and requested silver and gold utensils and clothing from the Egyptians. Of everything, the people valued the clothing the most. Nonetheless, they did not carry these articles themselves, but rather loaded them on their donkeys.59

36 God granted them favor in the eyes of the Egyptians so that they granted their request, and even gave them more than they asked for, and they thus drained Egypt of its wealth.60 In addition, the women were confident that God would perform miracles for them and brought along enough timbrels for all of them to celebrate with.61

Joseph had directed the people to take his remains from Egypt together with those of his brothers when they would leave.62 Moses went now to fulfill this directive. Since Joseph's coffin was at the bottom of the Nile River,63 Moses had to use supernatural means to retrieve it. He wrote a Divine Name and the words "Arise, ox! Arise, ox!" on a plate and threw it into the river. (These words were an alternate way of pronouncing the words for "upon the wall" in Jacob's blessing to Joseph.64) The coffin rose to the surface. While Moses was taking it out of the water, Micah65 secretly fetched the plate.66 The bodies of all Jacob's sons were intact, except for Judah's, whose bones rolled around inside the coffin as it was carried. This was because his vow to be excluded from the afterlife if he did not return Benjamin to his father67 was never annulled.68

From Raamses to Sukot

37 God sent an angel to show the people which way to go.69 On the morning of the 15th of Nisan, they gathered together at Raamses from all over Goshen in a miraculously short time.70 The Israelites then journeyed from Raamses to a place that would soon be named71 Sukot, on the western shore of the western arm of the Sea of Reeds (i.e., the Gulf of Suez, see Figure 4). Moses counted them;72 they numbered about 600,000 men aged 20 and older on foot, besides women and male children under twenty. Although it was 120 mil (240,000 cubits, about 115 kilometers or 72 miles—a three day journey73) from Raamses to Sukot, the people miraculously made this journey in a short time. As they were leaving, the Egyptians were busy burying their firstborn dead.74

38 Moreover, a mixed multitude of people from other nations asked Moses to join the ranks of the Israelites. Moses did not consult with God, but accepted them on his own authority, reasoning that it would be good for them to be attached to God's presence.75 This multitude went up with them, as well as flocks and cattle—a great deal of livestock. The people also cut down the acacia trees that Jacob had planted when he came to Egypt and had told his children to tell their progeny to take with them when they leave.76

39 At Sukot, the Israelites baked the dough that they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of matzah, since it had not leavened, for they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any other provisions for themselves. Even though they were traveling into the desert, they relied on God to provide for them. God accounted this to their enduring merit. Miraculously, the bread they now baked sufficed for 61 meals,77 and was as tasty as the manna they would eventually receive from God.78

40 The total length of time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt and other places as foreigners since God's prophecy to Abraham "between the parts"79 on Nisan 15, 2018 was exactly 430 years: 30 years from when God made the covenant until Isaac's birth,80 60 years from Isaac's birth until Jacob's birth,81 130 years from Jacob's birth until his arrival in Egypt,82 and 210 years in Egypt.83

41 And at the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of God left the land of Egypt. Once the appointed time came, God did not delay the Exodus even by an instant.

42 The night preceding this day was a night of expectation for God, to which He anxiously looked forward all these years, to fulfill His promise to take them out of the land of Egypt. This was the night that God referred to when He told Abraham, "On this night I will redeem your descendants." This night remains an annual time of protection for all the Israelites against all forces of destruction throughout their generations.

The Passover Offering, continued

43 Earlier, in the morning of the 14th of Nisan, God said to Moses and Aaron, "This is an additional part of the law of the Passover sacrifice: No person who, by his acts, has made himself a stranger to God may eat of it. This includes a non-Jew who has not converted to Judaism and an apostate Jew.

44 If there be a non-Jewish bondman whom a Jewish man buys for money, you shall circumcise him, and then he may eat of it. Non-Jewish bondmen must be circumcised.84 Failure to circumcise the bondman disqualifies him—or, according to another opinion, his master—from eating the Passover sacrifice.

45 It will be presently stated that no uncircumcised person may eat the Passover sacrifice. In addition, neither a resident alien (i.e., a non-Jew who has undertaken to observe the Noahide code of laws and is therefore allowed to reside in the Land of Israel) nor a non-Jewish hired laborer may eat of it, even if either of them happens to be circumcised.

46 As was stated previously,85 it shall be eaten by a single group. Once this group is formed, you may not break it into two groups, divide the offering, and eat it in two groups. Furthermore, you shall not take any of the meat out of the group to eat it separately, nor break any of its bones that have a kezayit or more of flesh on them.

47 Although this time, I have required you to form family-groups to eat the Passover offering,86 I will not require the groups to be family-based in the future. Rather, anyone from the entire community of Israel shall be able to join any group he or she wishes, to offer it and eat it together.

48 If a convert lives among you and would offer the Passover sacrifice to God, all the males in his family shall first be circumcised and only then may he draw near to offer it together with the rest of the community. He should not offer it immediately after he converts, but wait until its proper time, and in this respect he will be just like a native of the land. Although there are people who are exempt from the requirement to be circumcised—as for example someone whose two older brothers died as a result of circumcision—nevertheless, no uncircumcised man may eat of the Passover offering, even such people.

49 A convert is subject to the same laws as a born Israelite not only with respect to the Passover offering; in all respects there shall be one law for the native and for the convert who lives among you."

50 With regard to these laws, too,87 all the Israelites resolved immediately to fulfill these instructions at their proper time, and therefore God considered it as if they did so immediately. He credited them for their good intentions. When the time came, the Israelites did everything just as God had instructed Moses and Aaron, not omitting a single detail. And Moses and Aaron did so, also.

51 By this time, some Egyptians started to have second thoughts about letting the Jews go and tried to prevent them from leaving. Nonetheless, they did not succeed in stopping them,88 and thus, it was on that very same day that the Egyptians tried to stop them that God took the Israelites out of the land of Egypt with all their hosts.

Consecrating the Firstborn

Seventh Reading 13:1 At Sukot, God spoke to Moses, saying,

2 "Since I spared the firstborn of the Israelites in this most recent plague, they owe Me their lives. Therefore, consecrate to Me, from among the Israelites, every firstborn of man or beast which is the first issue of every womb; it is Mine. The firstborn men will become the priests, officiating at any private altars the people may set up to offer sacrifices. They will retain this function until you the Tabernacle is constructed,89 at which point private altars will become forbidden and the priesthood will pass to the Levites.90 The firstborn from your herds and flocks will be given to the priests and sacrificed to Me, and your firstborn donkeys will be redeemed by giving the priests a lamb or kid in its stead."91

The Festival of Passover

3 Now that the people were camped at Sukot and were no longer in such a rush, Moses felt it was time to deliver the communications from God that he had not yet had time to deliver. Thus, before conveying the laws God had just told him (regarding consecrating the firstborn), he conveyed the laws God had told him previously (about observing the holiday of Passover in the future92), together with the following details.93 Moses said to the people: "Remember this day on which you went out of Egypt, the house of bondage, for with a mighty hand God brought you out of here. You must mention the Exodus every day. No leavened food may be eaten on Passover, the holiday that will commemorate the Exodus, as will be detailed presently.

4 See how kind God is to you: this day, on which you are going out, is in the month of the beginning of the grain-ripening.94 He is taking you out in the spring, when the weather is perfect for traveling.

5 When God will bring you to the land of the Canaanite peoples, including the Canaanites themselves, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, the Jebusites, and the Perizites, which He swore to your forefathers to give to you,95 a land flowing with goats' milk and date- and fig-honey, then you shall perform this service, that of offering the Passover sacrifice, every year on the 14th day of this month." Moses did not mention the Perizites explicitly since they can be construed to be included in the general term "Canaanites." He did not mention the Girgashites because their territory was not distinguished as "flowing with milk and honey."96

6 He continued: "For seven days—from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan—you shall eat matzos whenever you would like to eat bread,97 and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to God.98

7 During the seven days matzos shall be eaten instead of leavened bread. Nothing leavened of yours nor any leavening agent of yours may be seen—i.e., found—throughout your domain, i.e., in any place under your control.99

8 And if at some point in the future any of you should have a child who does not yet know how to ask about the observance of Passover, you shall tell your child about the Exodus on your own on the anniversary of that day by recounting the miraculous story and thereby sparking his interest.100 On the other hand, if you have a rebellious child,101 you should answer him by pointing to the Passover offering, the matzos, and the bitter herbs, and saying, 'It is for the sake of fulfilling His commandments, like these, that God acted on my behalf when I came out of Egypt.' Say 'on my behalf' and 'when I came out' rather than 'on our behalf' and 'when we came out.' Although he indeed would have been redeemed (together with the rest of the rebellious people—for only those who refused to leave perished beforehand102), he would not have been worthy of it.103 This hint may influence him to mend his ways.

9 As an additional daily reminder of the Exodus, write these two passages of the Torah—this one and the following one, both of which describe the Exodus104—twice: once on two separate parchments, and once together on the same parchment. Place them in specially made leather boxes (tefilin): the single parchment with both passages into a box with one compartment, and the two separate parchments into a box made with compartments for each passage.105 Attach leather straps to the boxes. The Exodus shall then be a sign for you when you wear the single-compartment tefilin on your left arm, and a reminder when you wear the multiple-compartment tefilin on your forehead above the point exactly between your eyes,106 so that the Torah of God will be on your lips, for with a mighty hand God brought you out of Egypt.

10 Finally, you shall observe this ordinance—the Passover sacrifice and holiday—at its appointed time from year to year."

Consecrating the Firstborn, continued

11 Moses then related the instructions regarding the firstborn to the people: "Unless God tells you to sanctify and redeem the firstborn before this,107 the following commandment will apply only when God brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your ancestors, and gives it to you. In the merit of observing this commandment, you will enter the land;108 so whenever you perform it, thank God for giving you the land just as if He gave it to you that very day.

12 You shall set apart for God every first issue of the womb. This applies even if the first issue of the womb is a miscarriage: every male firstling miscarriage that your cattle and flocks109 shall issue shall be God's.

13 "This commandment applies only to kosher animals, with the following exception: You shall redeem every firstling donkey by giving a lamb or kid to a priest in its stead. The donkey then becomes yours; both your donkey and the priest's lamb or kid are then non-sacrificial animals, and may be used as their owners wish. Donkeys are included in this practice because they remind us of the Exodus from Egypt: their large genitals remind us how steeped the Egyptians were in sexual depravity,110 and the people used their donkeys to carry their loads of Egyptian silver and gold when they left Egypt.111 If you do not redeem the donkey you must kill it in a particularly cruel manner: you must break its neck-bone from behind with a hatchet. You gain nothing by not redeeming the donkey (since it is forbidden for you to make any use of it until you redeem it—and in fact, you stand to gain by redeeming it with a lamb or kid, since they are worth less than it is). If you nonetheless refuse to redeem it, you have committed an act of pure, unmitigated cruelty toward the priest, depriving him of what is rightfully his for no reason other than spite. Therefore, you must kill your donkey cruelly: since animals' owners feel for them, you will feel the animal's pain and experience the cruelty of your own behavior.112

"You shall also, once you enter the Land of Israel and set up the Temple, redeem every firstborn child among your sons,113 by giving five shekels of silver to a priest when the baby is a month old, as 'payment' for functioning in his stead.114

The Festival of Passover, continued

Maftir 14 "It was previously pointed out that you must make efforts to educate your children about the Passover holiday, even if they be rebellious or too uneducated to know how to ask. The truth is that you must explain all of God's commandments to all your children.115 Thus, if, in time to come, after the passing of the generation of the Exodus,116 you have a simple child, who does not delve deeply into things, and your simple child asks you about redeeming the firstborn by simply saying, 'What is this? Why do we have to do all these things with firstborn men and animals?' you shall say to him, 'God brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, with a mighty hand.

15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us leave, God slew every firstborn in the land of Egypt, the firstborn of both man and beast. I therefore sacrifice to God every male animal that is the first issue of the womb, and redeem every firstborn among my sons.'

16 This paragraph, too,117 shall be included in the tefilin you will wear as a sign on your arm and as a reminder—centered on your forehead above the point exactly between your eyes—that God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Whoever sees the tefilin will thus be reminded of the miracles of the Exodus and speak about them. Even though I am only telling you now to write two passages, make the head-tefilin with four compartments, for in the future I will tell you to place another two parchments in them.118 The hand-tefilin should consist of only one compartment, since you are to place all the specified passages in it on one parchment.

"If, on the other hand, your child is intelligent and asks you specific questions about the details of the commandments by saying, 'What are the testimonies, statutes, and laws that God has commanded us?'119 you must answer his questions with due consideration. Thus, you must tailor your explanations of God's commandments to your children's disposition and mental capacities—whether they be wicked,120 too young to know how to ask,121 simple,122 or intelligent."123