Aliyah #1: 12:29-32
Nine plagues down with only one more to go. Once more, Moshe (Moses) warns Pharoah of what’s to come with one last hope that he will do the right thing and save the Egyptians and free the Israelites. In this first Aliyah, night falls and all the first born of Egypt are slain. Even the first-born among the beasts are not spared. Pharoah is awakened by the sound of the whole kingdom screaming in pain and despair as “there was no house where there was not someone dead.” Pharaoh summons Moshe and Aharon (Aaron) and demands they take the Israelites and leave. Finally giving in to the wishes of God, Pharoah asks for a blessing with the departure of the Israelites.
Aliyah #2: 12:33-36
The Egyptian people are terrified and distraught and hurry the Israelites out from the kingdom. The Israelites are shuffled out so quickly that even their bread does not have time to rise [thus beginning the tradition of Matzah on Pesaḥ (Passover)]. The Israelites ask for gold, silver, and clothing from the Egyptians who happily oblige and give over their riches.
Aliyah #3: 12:37-42
The Israelites finally leave Egypt 600,000 men strong—not counting women or children or the non-Israelites who decide to journey with them. They also take animals and matzah with them as the only provisions.
The text shifts for a moment to let us know that the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years at that point. This very day (today known as Pesaḥ) is to be remembered throughout every generation for the people of Israel (today known as the Jewish people who still celebrate every year).
Aliyah #4: 12:43-51
Moshe and Aharon are then instructed on the laws for a special offering to God in honor of their new freedom. These laws include:
- No foreigners may eat from the offering
- Slaves may eat of it, but only those who have been brought into the community through circumcision for males (i.e. converts)
- No hired professionals who are not part of the community may eat of it
- It shall be eaten indoors
- Everyone must offer it
- Anyone who has chosen to live amongst the people may only offer and eat of it if they have entered the community through circumcision of their men
- There are separate rules for Israelites and those who simply choose to live amongst the Israelites
Just as God commands, Moshe and Aharon instruct the people and they obey as they leave Egypt.
Aliyah #5: 13:1-4
The Torah then shifts from the narrative about the Exodus to a set of instructions given to Moshe. The Aliyah begins with instructions to consecrate the first-born of all the Israelites and their livestock to God. Since the first-born of the Israelites were spared during the 10th plague in Egypt, they are now designated for God. It is a way to remember that they were freed in the month of “Aviv” (known today as the month of Nisan).
Aliyah #6: 13:5-10
As the focus turns to the celebration of freedom, God shifts from discussing the present generation to the ritual as it will be for all generations moving forward. Once the Israelites make it to the land of K’na’an (modern day Israel) they shall observe what we today refer to as Pesaḥ. The rules are explained as:
- For 7 days Matzah (unleavened bread) should be eaten
- There should be a festival
- Teach your children that the holiday is because God redeemed you (and them)
- There should be a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead to keep God’s teachings in your mouth.
- It shall be a set time for the holiday every year
Aliyah #7: 13:11-16
In addition to the celebration listed in the previous Aliyah, God instructs Moshe that while the first-born shall be set aside for God the cattle shall be redeemed by a sheep taking its place, and that all children must be redeemed with no exception. (I.e. no child may be sacrificed to God—a notion that may seem obvious today but was revolutionary at the time). Moshe is reminded that the reason we should teach our children this is that when God came to slay the first-born of Egypt the first-born of Israel were spared. The parshah ends with a reiteration that we shall place a sign upon our hands and a symbol between our foreheads that reminds us of what happened. (This symbol today comes in the form of t’filin).