Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Retelling the Planning of the Exodus

Escaping the Egyptian soldiers with a miracle happening, the parting of the sea
Led by Moses, Egyptian slaves were freed after 400 years of slavery
only to be chased for their leaving-with their permission.  This was the beginning of
such experiences of a government not keeping their promise to this people,
yet they will survive.  Am Yisrael Chai! 
We remember these days with our holidays of Passover and Sukkot  
Nadene Goldfoot                                         
Planning the what would turn out to be a 40 year Exodus for people who had been held as slaves for the past 400 years was a monumental task, fit for a Prince of Egypt, even though he was now past 80 years old.
Moses, a Levite,  had time to think about how he would do such a thing on his own journey when he left his wife, children and grandchildren in Midian to travel back to where he had been born; Egypt.  He knew he would have to win a debate first with today's Pharaoh, a boy he grew up with, he figured.  Then the Exodus itself.  How would he survive at his age without the comforts of home?  His own kin would not mind being they had known nothing but slavery and hardship in their whole lives, but he had been raised by the Pharaoh's daugher and was educated along with the Pharaoh's own grandchildren.  He had had the comforts of living in the princess's own household.  He had lived comfortably in Midian with Jethro, the local priest, and his daughter, Zipporah, as his wife.
This is the time for us to reflect what it would have been like for our ancestors back 4,000 years ago to go on such a journey and relive in role-play during Passover slightly the lives of our ancestors who took us out of any possibility of us growing up in slavery and not as free men in our own country.  It's come about slowly for us.  Not until the end of WWI  in 1917 did most European Jews feel freed  from the tyranny of Europe towards the Jewish people.

Ah yes, the Jewish people.  We've been a people without  a country ever since 70 CE when the Romans burned down our 2nd Temple, Solomon having built the first that was so damaged by Nebuadnezzar, the Babylonian in 586 ///BCE, in Jerusalem.  We had started off as a family of 70 and our servants in the town of Ur, now found in Iraq, and we were very fertile.  We grew and grew and were added to by other slaves held in Egypt that worked with us.  Moses made us a people which we happily agreed with.
Moses helped us to become a people with a religion, a way of life in that we would be treating people the way we would like to be treated.  We would never do to them what we didn't want done to us again, like make people into slaves, or kill at will as we lived under such stress.  There was but one G-d; not a world of them in Mt. Olympus as the Greeks and Romans believed; but one unseen G-d who told Moses how to get us from point A in Egypt to point B back to the home of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  How we have remembered these people, our dream held long dear with stories from our parents handed down to us.

Moses had used all the convincing techniques he had up his sleeves to get the Pharaoh to allow this people to exit out of Egypt.  400 years was enough.  Times had changed.  This Pharaoh was in agreement.  He remembered Moses.

Today's journey between Egypt and Jordan
Imagine the rush that occurred with these slaves having been told by Moses that they would have to leave in a few hours after being given the signal that it was a GO.  The rush to collect all they could from people around them that would help on their journey.  Women who knew they had no time, mixed flour and water together and spread it out on rocks to dry in the sun for food to carry on the journey; something we imitate with our matzos.  Believe me, it was much harder to chew than Manischewitz matzos.   Animals rounded up to take on the journey.  400 years of work without pay, and these people knew this, so felt they had something coming to them.  They had no idea that they would be on the march for 40 years.
Retelling the Exodus story with song; as told in our Tanakh
You will bring them and implant them on the mount of Your heritage,
the foundation of Your dwelling-place that You, Hashem, have made-
the Sanctuary, my Lord, that Your hands established.  

And so we continue to retell this story every year since it occurred.
It was that life-changing an episode. 
I can't imagine how they ever lived through slavery for that long a period of time.  Sleeping without a Seely mattress, how could they have managed that?
A Sukkah, built as it was 3500 years ago.  
Our American Colonialists and Pioneers had made something soft to sleep on.  Even English people in the 1200s would have had some sort of hay or straw bedding.  My grandmother in Portland had a feather pillow; maybe they had feather mattresses.   What did slaves have but hard cold floors?  How could they have slept outside?  How did they waken without coffee?  Today we can't even get started without it.
We know that they had built 3 sided-type tents, Sukkot,  on their trip over the sandy desert for protection when sleeping using some sticks and then blankets for the sides.  We copy this also in our following holiday of Sukkot and people in Israel do eat and sleep in them for the length of our holiday of remembrance.  Sukkot comes after Passover.  This is when we speak and remember the awesome event experienced by the children of Israel (Jacob) which is what we called ourselves, 7 weeks after their exodus from Egypt when they camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula.                                                             

 It was then that the Revelation was revealed to the people, Israel.  It's when Moses came down the mountain with the 10 commandments given to him by G-d.  These very same commandments were to become the moral  bedrock for much of Western civilization.
The distance from Egypt to Canaan is not that far.  Today you can travel it in 10 hours on route 90 by car.  It's 751.5 km or 466.96045 miles.  I can travel 400 miles from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, Oregon across the state in 6 to 7 hours easily.   In 1579 BCE, about 3,500 years ago it took Moses 40 years to move 600,000 people that far.  As it was done on purpose, we have to understand that this gave the people time to produce two more generations that were not slaves and did not have the slave mentality, but had turned into a solid people, and were producing strength of mind and body.  By the time they arrived in that 40 year epoch, they were not the same people that had left.  They, of course, had mostly died off, and this was a new breed of people, so anxious to end their migration.  They had been exposed to much in their travels of other people and ways of living so they could compare what they had accepted with what they had seen.  They had something now they had lost;strong  faith in their one G-d, a belief that Abraham had taught his children.

Moses survived the 40 year trek but died just outside of Canaan, so he never saw the land of his fathers.  He died in an unknown spot so as not to ever to be worshipped-(G-d forbid) as a god.  He was a man who listened to his moral compass; his G-d.

The end of our role play to remember those days is done in a Sukkah below is a large community-sized sukkah which perhaps a synagogue has built it for its congregants to perform the mitzvah of eating in one as our forefathers did.  Woven mats carried could be the answer for clean flooring, and sleeping.  I'm sure our forefathers didn't have tables or chairs but sat on cushions on the mats.  I hope cushions were invented there by then.

Resource: Tanakh (Old Testament)
To Be a Jew-by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin

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