clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wait — so the holiday celebrates the murder of Egyptian children?

The short answer is no: Passover celebrates God overthrowing the Jews’ corrupt ruler and offering them the freedom to be their own nation. But the killing of innocent children is certainly a part of this story — there’s no way around that.

It’s worth remembering that the story is from more than 3,000 years ago, a time when war and the deaths of innocents were not viewed the same way they are today, particularly in the context of divine intervention.

Still, it’s definitely shocking to read about the tenth plague today — even if you’re shaking a few drops of wine out of your cup when you do it. Over the years, Jews have developed several midrashim, or stories that serve as commentaries on scripture, as a way of coming to terms with the slaughter. (Here are some discussions of those.)

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.