123rf.com Stock Photo

123rf.com Stock Photo

On Passover, imagine this pitch for a proposed movie

  • By Patricia Turner
  • Wednesday, March 28, 2018 12:58pm
  • Neighbors

A ruthless, greedy ruler versus a social justice activist who is the leader of an oppressed group.

Deceit, lies, betrayal and death result in an action packed, chariot-chasing, edge-of-your -eat escape by the oppressed.

Special effects to include fiery balls of ice and the parting of a large body of water.

Working title: Let My People Go!

Sound familiar?

Exodus, one of the five books of the Torah, and the escape from Egypt of the Hebrew slaves led by Moses is a story that has resonated with Jews and non-Jews since it was first put down in writing. It has been portrayed in books, in song, in theater and in movies.

Every year at Passover, Jews retell the story, but it is not a simple retelling. Through rituals and abstaining from certain foods we relive the Exodus as though it is happening to us today. In this way we keep the story very much alive through each generation; past to present to future.

What is it in this story that makes it so important, a touchstone for Jews and non-Jews?

The success of a smaller, seemingly less powerful group against a larger, more powerful entity is certainly appealing. We all like to root for the underdog. That this group, the Hebrew slaves, was fighting for their freedom and to be allowed to head toward their promised land, are a battle and a longing easily understood. Right versus wrong, good versus evil are concepts we learn as children. The Book of Exodus is rich with symbolism and lessons and learnings to guide and inform on many different levels, but the “main event”, the striving for freedom affects us perhaps the most.

It is a story that has played out repeatedly throughout history, through Pharaohs, and Caesars, and Kings, and Presidents. The American Revolution, with colonists wanting freedom from a repressive king and the right to establish their own country, is a similar story. Later, Africans forcibly brought to the United States to be enslaved drew inspiration and comfort from the story of Moses and the Hebrews as they struggled towards their freedom. Harriet Tubman, born into slavery, escaped to become an abolitionist, suffragette and humanitarian. She was known as Moses for her work with the Underground Railroad, having rescued more than 70 enslaved people.

Today, worldwide, populations of people still struggle for their freedom under oppressive regimes. Daily the news has gut-wrenching images of the battles facing refugees; the modern day people of exodus. These are the large, global reflections of this story of which we must remain aware and act to resolve.

There are also smaller more personal echoes of this story that make this so lasting. Each of us struggle with our own oppressor, our own Pharaoh. For some it may be alcohol or drugs or cigarettes. For others it may be a bad relationship or an estrangement or a violent partner. Maybe you eat too much or exercise too little or have other behaviors that limit your health. Maybe you anger easily or have a biting tongue. Perhaps you had to drop out of school or feel stuck in your job. What is it that is enslaving you, keeping you from being all you hoped and wished?

Judaism has always insisted that the Torah wasn’t written to be merely a history book, but instead was meant to be a guidebook. That is what the name Torah implies: it teaches, it guides. Sometimes it guides by telling us stories about our past. The stories are relevant because they can help shape us into our best possible selves.

As we head into Passover take the time to reflect, to take a personal accounting. Determine to rid yourself of your Pharaoh. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. The children of Israel toiled for hundreds of years before being released by Pharaoh and then it took them 40 more years to get to the promised land! Their path was never smooth, the hazards along the way plentiful, and at times their faith faltered mightily, but it remained.

• Patricia Turner Custard is a member of the Congregation Sukkat Shalom. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.

More in Neighbors

Battered fish fillets frying. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce

For years I struggled with different fish batter recipes, usually with lousy… Continue reading

Jackie Renninger Park, which is scheduled to receive structural and safety improvements. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Neighbors briefs

See design ideas for Jackie Renninger Park at June 24 public meeting… Continue reading

Students from Juneau Community Charter School listen to a story at the Skagway Public Library. (Photo provided by Clint Sullivan)
Neighbors: Letters of thanks

Thanks to the community of Skagway The K/1 class of Juneau Community… Continue reading

Donna Leigh is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Courtesy photo)
Living and Growing: Small things

Have you ever had a small pebble in your shoe? Very irritating,… Continue reading

Dining out in Croatia. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Almond cake from a trip to Croatia

I should have probably titled this week’s column: “Eating For Pleasure.” My… Continue reading

Matushka Olga Michael, a Yup’ik woman from Kwethluk. (Photo provided by Maxim Gibson)
Living and Growing: A new Alaskan saint

“God is wonderful in His saints: the God of Israel is He… Continue reading

Nick Hanson of the NBC show “American Ninja Warrior” kicks off the blanket toss at the 2020 Traditional Games in Juneau. (Lyndsey Brollini / Sealaska Heritage Institute)
Neighbors: Celebration begins Wednesday with mix of traditional and new events

Nearly 1,600 dancers from 36 dance groups scheduled to participate in four-day gathering.

“Curiosities of Alaska” by Junnie Chup, which won first place in Kindred Post’s 2024 statewide postcard art contest. (Photo courtesy of Kindred Post)
Neighbors briefs

Kindred Post announces 2024 statewide postcard art contest winners Kindred Post on… Continue reading

Tanya Renee Ahtowena Rorem at age 17. (Photo provided by Laura Rorem)
Living and Growing: ‘My name is Ahtowena’

My precocious two-year old broke loose from my grip and took off… Continue reading

The Pinkas Synagogue, the second-oldest building in Prague. (World Monuments Fund photo)
Living and Growing: Connecting to family ancestors through names of strangers on a wall in Prague

“Prague never lets you go…this dear little mother has sharp claws.” —… Continue reading

Individual eggplant parmesan rounds ready to serve. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Individual eggplant parmesan rounds

These flavorful eggplant parmesans are a great side dish, especially served with… Continue reading