The Events of the Exodus
The process of the Exodus began when our forefather Abraham was told by G-d that his descendents would be enslaved in Egypt and subsequently freed. It was two generations later when Jacob, the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham, and his family settled in Egypt as the honored guests of the Pharaoh at that time.
The process continued through: the subsequent Jewish enslavement by the Egyptians; the ten nature-defying plagues prophesied by Moshe and activated by G-d over a period of twelve months; the subsequent release of the approximately three million Jews to freedom after the plague of the death of the first born; the splitting of the Red Sea seven days after their release; and the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai seven weeks after their release.
Our Focus on the Exodus
The centrality of the Exodus in Judaism is predicated on the fact that the Jewish people were freed and separated as a unique nation through the clear actions of G-d Himself. In addition to the physical freedom achieved, G-d chose us to be the world’s spiritual leaders by giving us the mitzvos of the Torah at Mount Sinai The mitzvos free us from a purely animal-like physical existence, to one in which we can elevate all our actions to be spiritual and G-d connected. Passover is a time where we commemorate the Exodus and renew our spiritual focus.
The Seder, with its primary mitzvah of the telling of the story, enables us to experientially reconnect with the slavery and freedom of the Exodus and express our appreciation to G-d for our redemption and selection as His chosen people. The salt water, into which the green vegetable is dipped, and the bitter herbs are associated with our bondage. The four cups of wine and the festival meal help us relive our freedom.
The Holiday of Matzah
Matzah is a prime component of both the Seder and the eight days of Passover. Consisting of just flour and water, matzah was our no-frills food when we were slaves in Egypt. It is also a symbol of our freedom because we hastily left Egypt without enough time to bake bread.
From a spiritual perspective, the leaven enhances breads physical aspects by adding flavor and digestibility to its life sustaining core. As such, bread is appropriate for the rest of the year when our main challenge is to integrate the physical into the spiritual. On Passover, however, we eat only matzah and abstain from the physically oriented leavened bread. A matzah diet allows us to keep spiritually oriented as we refocus on our mission of spiritual leadership of the world.