Holy Moses, it’s the story of Passover

By Scott Green

Of all the Jewish holidays, Passover is definitely the only one that begins this Saturday night. It’s the Jewish equivalent of Easter, except you have to replace “Jesus” with “Moses,” “resurrected” with “not resurrected” and “Cadbury Creme Eggs” with “guilt.” Passover commemorates the Jewish people’s escape from slavery in Egypt, followed by 40 years of wandering the desert that ended only when they found the place that is today their homeland: Miami Beach.

Actually, they wound up in Israel, referred to biblically as “The Land of Milk and Honey,” because nobody would ever visit if it were called “The Land of Ethnic Tension and Sand.”

Modern Jews observe the first two nights of Passover at dinners called “seders.” The basic purpose of the seder is to retell the story of Passover and have old people inform you of how disrespectful your hairstyle is. This is not why they are worth going to, however. They are worth going to because the seder’s rules instruct attendees to drink four heaping glasses of wine.

Passover celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people. The Jews were slaves in Egypt for about 200 years before they realized they would rather do something else, such as not be slaves in Egypt. So Moses, a Hebrew played by Charlton Heston, angrily told Pharaoh to “Let my people go from my cold, dead hands.” This was the first historical instance of foreshadowing.

Pharaoh initially refused, but God brought 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, including boils, frogs, dandruff, telemarketers and Scientology. Eventually Pharaoh freed the Hebrews, but he changed his mind after seeing that, as a practical joke, the Hebrews built the Sphinx as a half-man half-lion, instead of Pharaoh’s original instruction of half-goat half-chipmunk.

At this point in the retelling, everybody at the seder takes a bite of matzoh. Matzoh is a dry, flat, cracker-looking substance made of flour and water that is excellent for tasks such as tiling your bathroom floor, but not so good as food. But the matzoh itself is a part of the story: When Pharaoh agreed to free the Hebrews, they suspected he might renege, so they had to leave in a hurry. There wasn’t even enough time for their bread to rise before baking, leaving it flat and flavorless, so instead of eating it, the Hebrews went to the store and bought matzoh.

Modern Jews eat matzoh during Passover even when they’re not in a rush, thanks to the holiday’s “no bread” rule. In Hebrew School they told me it was because we couldn’t eat anything with flour in it, though this makes no sense because flour is matzoh’s main ingredient. I’m sure there is an actual reason for the no bread rule; I’m also sure I will receive e-mails from Jews more religious than myself informing me of this reason, and also informing me that I have the brain functionality of a vapid trout.

Anyway, Pharaoh did renege and led his army on a chase, cornering the seemingly helpless Hebrews at the Red Sea. But Moses, with the help of God, was able to correctly answer the troll’s three questions, and the Hebrews were allowed to cross the bridge. Pharaoh missed the third question (“What is a cubit?”) and the Egyptian army drowned, and worse, they were ineligible for the bonus round, where they could have won his-and-hers snowmobiles.

Eventually Moses went up Mount Sinai to get the Ten Commandments, a collection of rules that include “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” “Thou Shalt Tip At Least 15 percent” and “Thou Shalt Not Make Up Joke Commandments.”

So as you can see, things worked out well for everybody, except the Egyptians, who had to clean up after the plagues and die in the Red Sea, and the Hebrews, who spent 40 years wandering the desert. Of course, it didn’t have to be 40 years, but Moses’ literal interpretation of “The Land of Milk and Honey” made him pass the Promised Land dozens of times before he was set straight by a young Hebrew named Metaphoricus.

That’s the story of Passover as it will be told Saturday night at my house. It’s possible I didn’t get it exactly right, though in all fairness, the only times I’ve heard it were after four heaping glasses of wine.

Scott is a second-year law student. He totally knows what a cubit is.