Monday, April 2, 2007

A mighty hand

I'm sitting at my parents' house right now after Passover sedar. We're not supposed to turn to other forms of entertainment, but I've never been that religious anyway. Instead we're supposed to sit and discuss the story of Passover all night and usher in the dawn...

For those who aren't familiar, the off the cuff version of the story of Passover is as follows:

Back in the day, there was a Jewish guy in Egypt named Joseph. This guy Joseph was real sharp. He was buddy-buddy with God, and he would give advice, and he knew all the good places to raise sheep and grow corn and whatever. The Pharaoh liked him real well (maybe because Joseph kept him in good sheep grazing and corn growing), and said things like "go to Joseph and whatever he says to do, you shall do." People came from all over the place to get advice from Joseph or just hang out with him. For the sake of argument, lets just say that Joseph represented "the people of Israel".

After a while, the Pharaoh died, and Joseph died, and some other Pharaoh came to power "who did not know Joseph." As far as this new Pharaoh was concerned, there were just a bunch of Jews everywhere, and he said "um... we should do something about that, lest a war break out and these Jews decide to join my enemies and fight against me." Like most men in such a leadership position, this particular Pharaoh was prone to making pretty bad decisions.

So yeah, the Pharaoh enslaved all the Jews, and "set them to work at brick and mortar, and all kinds of work in the field." It pretty much sucked for the Jews, as they had to build crap like the Pyramids. Not the Pyramids themselves, they weren't built by slaves (according to the History channel), but stuff like them.

So God was like "hey, that situation sucks for you, and since you're supposed to be my chosen people, I guess I'll help you get out of it." So one day, since God had his back and all, Moses went to the Pharaoh and said "we're not happy, we'd like to leave now." The Hollywood version was more along the lines of "LET MY PEOPLE GO." The Pharaoh said "fine, whatever, leave" - but then he changed his mind. Moses asked again, and this time he scared the Pharaoh with nifty magic tricks like turning sticks into snakes (credit for special effects goes to God), and Pharaoh again said yes and then changed his mind. Eventually God had had about enough, and started throwing plagues at Pharaoh - Locusts, Frogs, etc. You know, biblical stuff, culminating in the slaying of the first born son.

Only fair, really, since that's what the Pharaoh had done to the Jews...
In order to spare the Jewish kids, the Jews were instructed to smear lambs blood on their door, so the Angel of Death would know to pass over their home when coming for the first born.

Pass over... Passover... get it?

So the Pharaoh, sufficiently scared by the prospect of losing his son, finally let the Jews leave Egypt. But based on his track record of changing his mind, Moses decided they'd better get a move on in a hurry. They didn't have time to make preparations, specifically to bake bread, so they mixed up some unleavened bread and let it bake on their backs as they trekked across the desert.

Of course, the Pharaoh DID change his mind, and came after them. To make their escape, God was kind enough to part the Red Sea and allow the Jews to cross on dry land. Hot on their heels were the Pharaoh's henchmen, so to seal the deal so to speak, God let the sea crash back down on them. Bad news for the Egyptians. The Israelites jumped for joy at their good fortune, but God got a little pissed about that... "My creatures perish and you sing praises?" So humbled, the Jews wandered the desert for a while, eating unleavened bread and, well, probably sweating a lot.

That's pretty much the story of Passover - it's a thrilling tale of slavery and oppression, and the Israelites' daring redemption.

So that's what we celebrated tonight. We ate Matzoh to remind us of the unleavened bread, Moror (horseradish) to remind us of the bitterness of slavery, Haroset (sort of a dip made of apples and nuts) to remind us of the sweetness of redemption, and Brisket from AJ's (an upscale grocery store) to remind us that Mom never really was a great cook.

(Just kidding, Mom)


rjt said...

Lovely recap and all, but you could have saved yourself a lot of typing by just saying this:

They tried to kill us.
We survived.
Let's eat.

Seth Jaffee said...

This is true!

Seth Jaffee said...

Just re-reading my Passover recap from 3 years ago... with regard to Haroset - what does it say if I don't like nuts and am allergic to apples?

No sweet redemption for me I guess.