Tonight, at least in my part of the woods, begins Pesach – Passover. The time we all get to enjoy The Ten Commandments and for some unknown reason, Fiddler on the Roof.
Tonight all over the world Jews are gathering together to take part in a centuries old tradition; a Passover Seder to recall the Exodus – the escape of the Jews (Hebrews) from Egypt.
A true traditional seder lasts an eternity. Seder means order and traditionalist keep to that order. It involves the telling of the story, asking questions and partaking of certain foods at specific times. The real meal doesn’t come until after the story has been fully told. Four hours into the seder and all you’ve had to eat is some parsley and horseradish. It makes for a long night.
Many homes, including ours have adopted a somewhat shorter version of the story, so as to not have the kids up to all hours of the night, hungry, bored and cranky. Works for the adults, too.
So here for your edification is the story of Passover – Bedlam style:
Jacob brought his sons into Egypt to escape the famine in Canaan. Son Joseph was a big mahker in Egypt and set his family up in Goshen, apart from the Egyptians (see Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat).
After Joe died, little ol’ Egypt and its new Pharaoh seemed to forget about the contributions he and his people made to Egyptian society and became jealous and suspicious of the Israelites. So like all despotic rulers, he made them into slaves.
Somewhere in this mix, it was predicted that a boy would be born to lead the Israelites to freedom. So, again like any good despotic ruler, Pharaoh passed an edict that all newborn boys of the Israelites be killed. Fun stuff.
Now, being a crafty Mom, Yocheved, put her boy Moses in a basket and sent him down the Nile hoping a good family would pick him up. Moses hit the jackpot and was picked by the nurse of Pharaoh’s daughter. He was adopted into the royal family.
When Moses grew into a young man, he observed an Egyptian beating an Israelite (Cecile B. DeMile seems to think it was an old woman), Moses got a little beside himself and killed the Egyptian. And like any teenager who has pulled a major “oops”, he ran away.
There’s not much to run away to in Egypt even back then. Moses ended up in an encampment of sheepherders, headed by Jethro (and you thought he was just a galoof on Beverly Hillbillies). While getting back to nature, Moses takes a wife, Tziporah, who just happened to be Jethro’s daughter. Always reaching for the top that Moses.
One day while out shepherding, Moses is mysteriously called to a mountain whereby he encounters a burning bush that is not consumed by the fire. Okay, so this is where some faith comes in – through the bush G-d instructs Moses to go back and lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
So, Moses goes back recruits his older brother Aaron and storms the Pharaoh’s place. He demands the release of the slaves or else. (“Let my People go!”) Pharaoh of course says, or else what and Moses, armed with a mighty potent staff shows him what – nine times.
For those of squeamish nature, skip this section. Moses brings forth nine plagues. (When telling this part of the story, you get to dip your finger in your wine and put a drop on your plate for each plague – kids like this part).
- Water turned into blood – I’d be good there.
- Frogs – my sister would be good there.
- Lice – parasites, my worst nightmare.
- Wild animals – and we are not talking Disney safari here.
- Pestilence – dictionary example is Bubonic plague, oh goodie.
- Boils – ow.
- Hail – ow again.
- Locusts – crickets on steroids, ever get one down you shirt? Shiver.
- Darkness – talk to the people in the extreme north about no light for extended time.
Pharaoh being an idiot, again as most despotic rulers are, said no each and every time until the tenth one. G-d struck dead all the Egyptian first born. (When Yoda was very little, the firstborn just got really sick.)
The schmuck finally got the message on that one. Pharaoh in his grief, relented and let the Israelites go. They fled hat in hand. – “No time to let the bread rise, Yacov, we gotta go!”
Pharaoh woke up when he realized basically his entire workforce was getting away and took chase after them. He thought he had them cornered at the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea), but dang if Moses didn’t take that G-d charged staff and part that sea. The Israelites scrambled across and Moses closed the sea on the Egyptian army. Only Pharaoh survived to see Miriam dancing with her tambourine in celebration across the waters.
The Israelites were free. Dayenu.
From this point, the Israelites wander for some time, about 40 years, go through some faith issues and are given the Torah – the five books of Moses and entry into the promised land (minus Moses). They lead a life of happy urban and agrarian society for many years until the whole persecution thing starts over again.
End of story. Let’s eat.
Add an orange and an apple to your plates this year and celebrate freedom for us all. Happy Passover!