Seven plagues have failed to convince Pharaoh to accede to Moses’ demand in G‑d’s name, “Let My people go, so that they may serve Me.” Time and again, while in the throes of a devastating plague, Pharaoh has promised to let the Hebrews go, only to renege the moment the affliction has been removed.
The eighth plague with which Moses threatens the Egyptians is the plague of locusts. “They will cover the face of the earth,” warns Moses, “and they will eat the residue of that which remains to you from the hail.”
You say that you want to go serve your G‑d? says Pharaoh. I’ll let the men go, as long as the women and children stay behind. No, says Moses,
We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters; with our flocks and with our herds will we go.
Pharaoh warns Moses that his efforts will only bring tragedy upon his people, and orders him from the palace.
All that night, a strong east wind blows; in the morning,
The locusts went up over all the land of Egypt . . . They covered the surface of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every plant of the land . . . and there remained no green thing through all the land of Egypt . . .
Once again, Pharaoh begs Moses to pray to G‑d that the plague be removed; once again, he promises to let them go; and once again, no sooner did the plague end than “G‑d hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the children of Israel go.”
For the ninth plague to strike Egypt,
G‑d said to Moses: “Stretch out your hand towards heaven, that there shall be darkness over the land of Egypt—palpable darkness.”
But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
By now, Pharaoh has agreed to let even the young children go; “only let your flocks and your herds stay behind.” Moses refuses: “Not a hoof shall be left behind; for of them we must take to serve G‑d.”
“Go out from my presence,” says Pharaoh to Moses. “Beware that you not see my face anymore, for on the day you see my face again, you shall die.”
Says Moses: “You have spoken well; I will see your face again no more.”
G‑d speaks to Moses: “One more plague I will bring upon Egypt, after which he will let you go from here”—a plague in which all the firstborn of Egypt shall die. Moses relays G‑d’s words to Pharaoh.
G‑d also tells Moses to instruct the children of Israel that “every man ask of his neighbor, and every woman of her neighbor, articles of silver and articles of gold” before they depart from Egypt.
G‑d then conveys to Moses and Aaron a series of mitzvot (divine commandments) in preparation for their Exodus from Egypt.
The second mitzvah is to bring a “Passover offering” to G‑d while still in the land of Egypt:
On the tenth day of this month, they shall take to them every man a lamb . . . a lamb for each household . . .
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of that month; and the entire community of the congregation of Israel shall slaughter it towards evening.
The First Seder
They shall take the blood, and put it on the two sideposts and on the upper doorpost of the houses in which they shall eat it. They shall eat the meat in that night, roasted with fire, and with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it . . .
Thus shall you eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet and your staffs in your hands. You shall eat it in haste; it is G‑d’s passover.
The blood shall be to you for a sign upon the houses where you are: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
The event shall be established a festival for all generations,
for on this very day I have brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. . . . Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses. . . . In all your habitations shall you eat matzot (unleavened bread).
It came to pass at midnight that G‑d smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn animals.
Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all Egypt; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
He called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said: “Get up and get out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel; and go, serve G‑d, as you have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone; and bless me also.”
Egypt was urgent upon the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said: We are all dead men.
So hastily were the children of Israel driven out by the Egyptians that “the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.”
Nor did they forget to take the wealth of Egypt with them, as G‑d had requested. “They requested of the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments. G‑d gave the people favor in the sight of Egypt, so that they lent them; and they despoiled Egypt.”
The children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children.
A mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, very much cattle.
They baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were driven out of Egypt, and could not delay, nor had they prepared for themselves any provision . . .
Moses said to the people: “Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand G‑d brought you out from this place: no leavened bread shall be eaten. This day you came out, in the month of spring.”
Moses also instructs them to observe the following mitzvot as commemorators of the Exodus:
* Each year, on the 14th of Nissan, all leaven must be removed from every Jewish home; that night, matzah should be eaten and the story of the Exodus told to one’s children. No leaven should be eaten or be found in one’s possession for seven days.
* All firstborn should be consecrated to G‑d, in commemoration of G‑d’s killing the firstborn of Egypt and sparing the Jewish firstborn. Firstborn animals are to be sacrificed as offerings to G‑d, and firstborn sons are to be “redeemed.”
* The tefillin should be worn as “a sign on your arm and a remembrance between your eyes, that G‑d’s Torah be in your mouth; for with a strong hand did G‑d bring you out of Egypt.”