Prologue to the Seder: Exodus Revisited

IN RE CHAMETZ

by Daniel Hoffman

(A PROLOGUE TO THE SEDER)

It is the tale of the Exodus (Haggadah) that we are commanded to recite on this occasion. The ritual, or Seder (literally, Order) has fifteen lovely steps, of which the meal is, lamentably, number eleven. But many of the steps are brief, especially when we skip them, Blessed Be They All.

Before the eight days of Pesach (Passover), observant celebrants must carefully cleanse the home of any trace of Chametz. Chametz refers to the bread that the Hebrews were not able to bring with them during the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.

Because their flight was so sudden, the bread had no time to rise overnight. Thus, the refugees were forced to eat unleavened matzo crackers for eight days. Unfortunately, their matzo had not been labelled “kosher for Pesach” by a qualified authority. There were no Rabbis, or labels for that matter. But the Lord, blessed be He, was furious that the matzo was not kosher. The Lord, it seems, is always furious about something, Blessed be He.

Now, here’s your prequel. The Exodus was not a simple matter of “We’re outta here.” Before Pharaoh would Let My People Go, they had to, first of all, teach him to spell his name. Pharaoh, that’s a tough one.

Now, first they had to find them a leader who could get access to Pharaoh. God sent them a stuttering Prophet, who just happened to have grown up in the Pharaoh’s court. The legend says he was a circumcised Jew, whose mother had floated him downstream in a special amphibious bassinet, hoping to spare him from (choose all that apply):

(a) the military draft

(b) his father, who wanted to sacrifice him

(c) Pharaoh, who wanted to sacrifice him

(d) Cubs postseason play

(e) having to be Moses.

The baby was rescued by an Egyptian princess and raised at Court. She named him Moses (drawing out), because she drew him from the Nile. His sister, Miriam, had followed his passage down the Nile, and slyly offered his mother to the princess as a nursemaid. Resourceful slaves! So he knew of his Hebrew heritage. As a youth, he noticed he was circumcised and went out to the desert to find the missing part of himself. He found himself on Jethro’s spread, also known as jeth row, where he married Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah. Zip-porah gave him a Zip file about the Torah that he would later write, and zipped him back to Egypt, determined to free his People. There he collected his brother Aaron, who had no speech impediment and could better speak to Pharaoh. (That impediment had come about when baby Moses cleverly grabbed a hot coal, instead of the nearby chunk of gold, and put the coal in his mouth. The baby prophet knew from E-Trade that the price of gold was falling and coal was rising.)

In the main event, the brothers duly obtained an audience with Pharaoh. Unfortunately, this particular Pharaoh remembered not Joseph, the Hebrew who had saved the kingdom in the time of an illustrious predecessor. Said predecessor, also known as Pharaoh, unfortunately was of another dynasty, spoke a different language, and ate really weird things for breakfast. See, the Pharaohdom was lacking in institutional memory, just like the Congress of the United States, and felt no gratitude.

So what could Moses do, except notify Pharaoh that he’d better Let My People Go, or else there were gonna be ten plagues so increasingly vicious that Pharaoh was gonna wish he’d skipped all ten of them. But Pharaoh loved horror shows—his whole life had been one. So he said unto Moses, “Show me what you got.” And he got the ten plagues:

Classic Version                        New Version

Blood                                               Blood Sugar Testing

Frogs                                                Frogs in Throat

Lice                                                  License Renewals

Flies                                                 Flying Long-Distance

Cattle Disease                                  Cat Messes

Boils                                                 Some Goils

Hail                                                 Halitosis

Locusts                                          Low Cost Limited Time Special Offers

Darkness                            Vision Loss

Slaughter of the Firstborn               Here, Sir (neon sign)

The multitudes suffered, but Pharaohs don’t need to run for reelection. Before the tenth plague, the Hebrews were warned to mark their homes with lambs’ blood, so that the Angel of Death would Pass- Over and spare them. They did not use Christian blood, for there were no Christians available. The Hebrews also installed Mezuzahs diagonally on their doorsteps, just to make sure only the Egyptian firstborn were slaughtered, Blessed Be He.

The tenth plague finally impressed Pharaoh, so he ordered the Hebrews freed. But soon he changed his mind—Pharaohs will do that—and ordered the extermination of the Hebrews. They gathered up their matzo and their DVD collections and headed for the Red Sea, as advised. Pharaoh’s troops followed, but Moses miraculously divided the sea by waving his Staff, which consisted of brother Aaron, sister Miriam, and Charlton Heston. The Hebrews escaped to Sinai, and the waters closed in to drown Pharaoh’s pursuing army. After this Staff Infection, Pharaoh wisely concluded that Egypt must stay out of Sinai and install missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic instead.

In the sequel, Miriam would write a song to praise the Lord, while the Hebrews wisely concluded that, with God, Blessed be He, and Aaron on their side, they could borrow the Golden Calf from the Johnson C. Smith University campus and worship it, laughing at Moses’s Ten Commandments.  Moses would be so angry at this sacrilege that he broke all ten of the Commandments, and then, coveting a more obedient People, had to reissue them in new and improved format. God was once again tempted to kill all the Jews, but He did not want to be in the position of coveting Pharaoh’s agenda, so He sentenced the Hebrews to forty years of desert-fresh, unrefrigerated manna instead. Blessed be He.

Now, if you think matzo is nasty, wait till you try manna. I’ve heard it is made from the offal of slaves whose manna-gruel labor was too much for them. Today it can be refrigerated, so it’s called Amana from Heaven. (The Amana company was originally a Christian commune that practiced Oneida-style free love, but somehow failed to make enough money for their services and turned to manufacturing.)

Well, let us now celibate the escape from slavery, the forty years of perdition (Blessed be He) and the triumphant entry to Canaan, the Promised Land of Milk (Real Whole Milk, mind you, not that filthy blue stuff) and Honey. But first, let’s finish the sequel to the Exodus.

For the immigrants, boy, that Honey was a honey. The Canaanites, though, were a pretty rough crowd. So God, Blessed be He, commanded His People to just go ahead and enslave what was left of them. And, it goes without saying, you must take good care of the strangers, also known as your property, who dwelleth among you.

Moses, it’s a pity, was not allowed to enter the Holy Land with his People. He was diabetic and married several times already and thus could not enjoy Honey, and further, he had displeased God by mistreating his Staff, in violation of the Eleventh Amendment, er, Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Mistreat Thy Staff. The Zip-Torah has 613 Commandments, but I’m too hungry to recite them all.

The lesson? Bless the Lord, pass the ammunition, and build a wall around the Holy Land, which reaches approximately to the River Jordan. Jordan, I believe, was Honey’s real name. So now that’s all Settled.

Now, what have we here? Matzo, Wine, Salt water, and, on the Seder plate, six items: a Lamb bone, an Egg, Celery, Horseradish, Parsley, and Haroses. Their significance will be explained in due course. Let us begin the Seder!

 

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~ by mickeyhoffman on April 20, 2014.

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