G-d assures Moses that He will indeed redeem the Jewish people from slavery and bring them into the land of Israel. After the Torah presents a detailed genealogy of the tribe of Levi (Moses’ family), Moses and Aaron go before Pharaoh to request a three-day hiatus from work so that the Jewish people can worship G-d in the desert. Moses’ staff is miraculously turned into a snake as a sign of their Divine mission. When the Egyptian sorcerers counter by transforming their staffs into snakes as well, Moses’ staff swallows up theirs. Even so, Pharaoh adamantly refuses to free the Jewish people, and the series of ten gruesome plagues begins.
The first seven plagues are described in this week’s Torah portion; blood, frogs, lice, a swarm of wild beasts, pestilence, boils and hail. Moses goes down to the river to speak to the Egyptian king — however, Pharaoh remains in denial (‘in d’Nile’ — get it?) continuing to refuse to free the Jewish people as his heart is hardened. The portion comes to a close in the middle of these momentous events.