Part Three- Finale
The people solemnly slaughtered their lambs at twilight as instructed. The women wept while preparing for the meal coating their lambs with the herbs, and making unleavened bread.
Children watched in awe as blazing fires settled into red hot coals to roast the lambs slowly and thoroughly. The sweet aroma of the cooking meat and herbs filled all of Goshen with the strong incense of Passover. A smell they will remember all their earthly days as the smell of freedom. This sweet smoke created a dense fog that slowly rose into the heavens carrying with it the thoughts and prayers of the slaves about to be set free.
While the lambs were cooking, doorway after doorway was being painted with deep red blood. The children ran from house to house to watch and the teenage boys asked to help. Fathers handed their sons the hyssop brushes. No one complained, no one questioned. After all that they had been through, each person knew better than to question Moses or his God.
After the ceremony of painting, the menfolk and the children went inside their homes to divided and eat the lamb.
It was time. In Mariam’s house Moses, Sepphora, Gersham, Eliezer, and Aaron with his wife Elisheba, with his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazer and Ithamar and Aaron’s daughter in law, and his grandson Putiel were gathered. With all eyes focused on the lamb, they prayed. “Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam. Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe great and powerful God who hath brought us to this king of moments in all of history, God of life, be with us and guide us through this awful night.” There was nothing more to say. In silence Moses carved the lamb in equal parts to the number of people in the family and passed the platter for each person to take his or her piece of the one lamb that united them with each other. Everyone looked at their meat with thoughts of the lamb who just that morning had been frolicking in the pasture. He alone represented their corporate frailty.The lamb was their refuge. There was to be no leftovers, they ate quickly, with sandals on their feet, ready to run. After the lamb had been completely consumed, when it had gone from the platter into each man, woman, and child’s body to nourish and sustain them for the journey ahead, one by one family members fell exhausted.
Gersham was first to ask, “Mother, I am so tired, may I go to rest now?”
Aaron and Nadab followed, the three first-born men of the family subconsciously felt a great weight on their hearts in sympathy, in grief, in relief that for a reason that no man comprehended, they were going to be spared. That blood was to save him specifically. These three men craved the relief of a deep slumber.
In ones and twos the rest of the family went to their beds to rest. Bellies full and satisfied, hearts sad, minds afraid and excited about the journey ahead.
A feeling of awe and reverence swept through every home in Goshen. Whoever was not ready to leave Egypt was getting ready now. A few, mostly infants and small children, managed to fall into a deep restful sleep. Most of the family member sat or laid in their beds hugging each other and praying with their thoughts in the still darkness.
As forewarned, at midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.
Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
The sound of women and men wailing could be heard throughout the land. Everyone who was asleep woke up. The cries, the shrieks of mother’s, of wives, of brothers and sisters collided to fill the air as loud sirens. Every Egyptian was alarmed that so many could die so suddenly. It didn’t take the Egyptians long to realize that each family had lost its first-born son. First born fathers died too leaving their wives and children bereft of support. Shepherds noticed that the first born of the livestock had fallen too. This was no accident, no coincidence. It was mysterious to the ignorant Egyptians, but it was a mystery no one had the energy to contemplate. So strong was their grief.
Pharaoh ran into his son’s room only to see his lifeless body completely drained of all joy and sorrow, of love, and of hopes and fears. There was nothing but a shell of the young man he had poured all his dreams into. With his royal head resting on his son’s still and silent chest Pharaoh saw his dynasty crumble. His heir was dead. Pharaoh walked out of the room of death and went to sit on his throne.
Gracefeld never felt so sorry, so guilty knowing that the bitter grief of Pharaoh was due to the stubborn thoughts that he had planted in Pharaoh’s mind. Gracefeld wondered how this story would have played out if Pharaoh had been allowed to decide for himself how to respond to all the calamities. But then, these musings were too high for Gracefeld, who had learned to trust and not question God long ago.
In his grief, remembering their warning, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron in the night.
Moses and Aaron, along with almost everyone else in Mariam’s home, were awaken from their deep sleep by the loud harsh knock on their door. Mariam who was still cleaning up after the meal opened the door to see the messenger. She called her brothers to wake up and go to Pharaoh.
Moses and Aaron walked out through the blood-stained lintel to follow the messenger back to the palace. While he was walking Moses contemplated how long he had known that this would happen. From the time he first set out from Jethro’s home, which seemed a lifetime ago, God had told Moses about the deaths of the first born. Before all the marvels, Moses knew that it would culminate in this tragedy. And yet, he was not prepared for how he would feel on this deadly night.
The grief drenched air was so thick with heartbreak that Moses had to wade through it as if he was wading through an ocean of tears in a strong undertow. It was impossible to walk quickly. Every doorway they passed spewed anguish.
As he walked Aaron was reminded of his youth when another Pharaoh had the infant boys drowned in the Nile and how grief-struck his own aunts had been. Perhaps it was to avenge this killing that God’s first act was to bloody the Nile. It was the blood of hundreds of Hebrew infants that spoiled the Nile. He had never realized that before. Aaron had long forgotten those day of anguish, until now. Had their God chosen this genocide as retribution? Aaron was not as sensitive to the cries surrounding him, so absorbed had he been in the memory of the infanticide he had escaped. But, didn’t the murder of the boys also cause Moses to be brought up in the palace and make him particularly well suited for this day? At that point Aaron stumbled on a rock and quickly shifted his feet to keep from falling. Upon his quick recovery he lost all track of his mental exploration.
When they finally arrived in the throne room the brothers found a depleted Pharaoh sitting dejectedly on his throne. In barely audible words Pharaoh simply said, “Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone.”
Just as Moses and Aaron turned to go, Pharaoh added, as if reaching for a life line “And bring a blessing on me too!”