Right before God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He struck the Egyptians with the tenth plague, death of the firstborn. As an Israelite, in order to not have your firstborn son die, you had to get the blood of a lamb and put it above your doorpost so that the Angel of Death would pass over your house. I can only imagine how terrifying that night was for the Egyptians, hearing screams and sobbing, with people dying in every house. After watching nine plagues destroy the entire country, this was the final blow. “Get out of here!” the Egyptians screamed, handing over their jewelry and gold. “We'll pay you to get out of here! Please! Please go!”
The Israelites, who had just celebrated the first Passover, departed Egypt the next morning, loaded down with treasure. I can just hear the shouts of joy from the Israelites, who probably looked like skeletons with whip marks on their backs. They had been in such poverty for so long that they couldn't believe they were suddenly rich. And God Himself was leading them in a pillar of cloud, the glory of God cloaked in a mantle of swirling clouds.
Moses was surprised that it was actually happening, finally. When God commanded Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, Moses had said no. God had to yell at him because he was so stubborn. Then after a few plagues, the Israelites were ready to kill Moses because they had to make bricks without straw now, doubling their work load. Moses cried out to God, “You are not delivering us at all!” So when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, it must have been surreal, like he was walking in a dream. God had kept His Word after all.
God commanded His people to celebrate the Passover every year so that they wouldn't forget the miraculous way God delivered them. Even if you're not a Jew, as a Christian, it would be good for your family to experience the Passover at least once. It happens on the Friday before Easter. It is rich with symbolism recalling the faithfulness of God. It doesn't have to be complicated. You can find a script for the Passover, called the Haggadah, at the library or online. It will tell you exactly what to say. Many blessings are said by the head of the table, and you will need quite a bit of grape juice, four glasses per person.
The symbolic foods are placed on a seder plate. Salt water is in a bowl in the middle, representing the tears of the Israelites in their bondage. The parsley represents hope and renewal. Horseradish was a reminder of the bitter suffering in Egypt. A hard-boiled egg was a symbol of the temple sacrifices. A mixture of apples, nuts, grape juice, and cinnamon was a reminder of making bricks out of clay and straw. The roasted shankbone from a lamb was a reminder of the Passover lamb that was slaughtered.
Matzot are also used throughout the meal. The middle matzah is broken in half, wrapped in a napkin, and hidden from the children. At the end of the meal, the children look for it and exchange it for a gift. Meanwhile the other two pieces are put on either side of the broken piece and covered. Strangely, God in three Persons is represented, with God the Son being broken for us.
The youngest person at the table asks four “why” questions, to better understand why Passover needs to be celebrated. The head of the table answers each question.
One drop of grape juice is removed for each plague, and you put the ten drops on the edge of your plate. The ten plagues are listed: blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of the firstborn. An extra place has been set for Elijah. Soon one of the children goes to open the door for Elijah to come, which will herald the coming of the Messiah.
At the end of the entire meal, I play some Jewish music, and we dance as a family. We yell, “Next year in Jerusalem!”