Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Passover Haggadah - The Sequel

Today is the first day of Passover. Our family Seder is tonight and we will read the story of how Moses freed the Israelites from the oppression and the slavery they endured in Egypt and led them on a journey to Canaan – the land promised to them by God.

Here is what an excerpt from the Story of Passover used for our family 5763 Seder: "The Pharoh, fearing the loss of valuable workers and, perhaps the brain-drain, refused to let the group go. According to the Book of Exodus (in the bible, not the movie), God assisted by imposing plagues on the Egyptians such as blood in the river, flies, boils and locust. Fortunately for Moses, Aaron and God, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 had not yet been adopted because it prohibits the targeting of civilians in a time of war. Finally, seeing how stubborn Pharoh had become, Moses, Aaron and God unleashed the mother of all plagues – killing all the firstborn of the Egyptians (including the son of the Pharoh). Pharoh, having endured what would later be remembered as the first use of a weapon of mass destruction, told the group to leave."

Now for, as Paul Harvey says, the rest of the story.

How do the writings tell us the Israelites gained control over Canaan? Recall that the Torah (the five books of Moses) ends with the death of Moses – duh!!

For this we have to read the Book of Joshua as told to us by, of course, Joshua, because when Moses died on the final approach to the promised land the reins fell into the hands of Joshua to lead the people into Canaan - establish the people in the land, divide it up among them, and destroy or drive out the natives of Canaan so that they would not pollute Israel with idolatry and evil ways.

Before crossing into the land west of the River Jordan, Joshua sent two spies to Jericho. The woman the spies were staying with was named Rahab and she protected them. Safely escaping the city, the two reported that the "whole land was melting with fear". After crossing the Jordan, Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan where they laid siege to the city of Jericho. The Lord spoke to Joshua telling him to march around the city once every day for six days with the seven priests carrying trumpets in front of the ark and on the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times and the priests were to blow their trumpets. On the seventh day, after following God’s instructions, Joshua ordered the people to shout. The walls of the city collapsed, and the Israelites were able to charge straight into the city. The city was completely destroyed, and every man, woman, and child in it was killed. Only Rahab and her family were spared, because she had hid the two spies sent by Joshua. After this Joshua burned the remains of the city.

As we all know:
Joshua fit de battle of Jericho, Jericho
Jericho Joshua fit de battle of Jericho
And the walls came a tumblin' down.

Who were these people who lived in Jericho in the West Bank of the Jordan River? What were their evil ways? What was the idolatry in which they were engaged?

Imagine that you are Menobite, a resident of Jericho with a wife and three children, watching as the Israelites march for seven days with trumpets blaring. You ask the mayor what he is going to do? He says that he has tried to schedule a time for negotiations but the Israelites just continue to march around the walls, the priests blaring their trumpets and the warriors screaming “Actors of Evil”. He adds that the Israelites leaders have rejected all calls for a peace conference. You suggest to the mayor that the Israelites be attacked and he responds “With what, stones?”

The Israelites keep repeating “God promised us this land.” You ask the mayor whether such a promise trumps the deeds that you have to your house. He assures you that the Israelites claim would not be upheld in any court and that should the Israelites win an initial battle, you would certainly have a right to return to your home.

You tell him that the situation is desperate. If the Israelites win, they will likely occupy Jericho and oppress and enslave all of you. The mayor is not worried, having read about the Israelites somewhere in a papyrus draft which told of them recently leaving Egypt where they had been held as slaves. Besides, the mayor says, he read in the scroll that their God told them “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” and “Justice, Justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Not to worry, the mayor says. They will appreciate how important it is to respect others and treat them justly and with dignity.

You are not convinced so you appeal to the Jericho court and argue that under international law the Israelites have no right to preemptively attack a city based on the possibility that it may some day unleash its writings of mass idolatry. The court issues a ruling in your favor and you attach the order to the Israelites to end the siege and return to the other side of the Jordan to a rock which you throw over the wall on the sixth day. A few minutes later, over the wall attached to a spear comes a note “We never signed the treaty that would give the Jericho court jurisdiction over our actions … and stop attacking us with rocks. Sincerely, Joshua – the Israelite.” The spear strikes and kills a child. At this point you finally get the attention of the mayor who decries this act of terrorism by the Israelites.

On the seventh day, “the walls came a tumblin down” and … could that be another reason we have Maror on the Seder plate?

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