Tag Archives: Exodus Narrative

Hosting a Virtual Seder During a Pandemic

Dear readers,

Hopefully, you are all in good health.

On April 02 there are 5,552 people registered in Belgium that are infected with the novel coronavirus who are receiving treatment in Belgian hospitals.
That there are only 1,143 deaths of the CoViD-19 virus at the moment is thanks to the exceptional precautions that the government has taken and which a large part of the population adheres to.

The coming week brings us, what in normal circumstances would be the busiest time for gatherings, in our effort to remember how God has liberated us, and to make sure that the younger generation would come aware how we always should remember how God Helps and Guides His People.

14 Nisan is normally the Day of The Memorial Meal.
This year that shall be different from all other years.

In Lockdown times, best not to meet too many people and to keep social distance, nowhere in Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal shall there be an open public Memorial Meal or Pesach Seder.

While you might not be able to physically gather around the seder table this Passover, do not forget that you can come together online.

Check out our 10 tips for creating a meaningful and fun seder experience for your family and friends, near and far.

  1. Use the same Haggadah. 

    You could make and can use a Haggadah you could send out by e-mail beforehand and/or screen-share it with your guests, or encourage everyone to print their own copy.

  2. Designate an e-Moses.

    It can be very helpful to pick someone to lead the virtual seder. Make sure this person has experience successfully using Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc..

    He can play Moshe and let us remember how Moshe ditched his desert aesthetic and returned to the Egyptian palace to deliver God’s message, with the help of his brother and hype man, Aaron.

    Telling the exodus story he may not forget to bring forth how Moshe spoke about God commands and how God clapped back at the Egyptians. Children perhaps can have drawings made of the pathway formed between the walls of water and the Israelites who made it to the other side without harm.

  3. Make a “seating and speaking chart.”

    This year there can best not swapped places. Best is to have everybody all night using the same place at the table, and if possible having enough distance between each household member.

    But this year we should also account for the virtual seated next speaker. Figure out ahead of time who is going to read what. Throughout the seder, text the person you’d be sitting next to.  Be careful when all speakers are on there shall be too much echo and everything could become too chaotic. Therefore, let everybody stay muted and follow an order of speaking plus having put up an arm or (funny) sign requesting to speak.

  4. Maintain that there are no excuses for why people can’t attend.A danger of such critical times as these, is that people come a bit lazy or like to avoid their religious obligations.
    Unless, you know, they don’t have internet and/or a device to connect to it. Anyone can be part of your Passover experience.
  5. Have a practice run.The organiser best has several contacts beforehand with those who would take care of the surprises.Also, send instructions for accessing your virtual platform of choice ahead of time so nobody holds up the seder by not knowing their Wi-Fi or other password.For those who do not have their computer enough secured and therefore had best their camera taped, they have to be encouraged to take the stickers or tape off their cameras.
  6. Eat and drink with measure spread over the long time of gatheringAs usual at a seder have the different courses interrupted by animated talks, readings from Scripture and prayers.
  7. Work with what you have.

    With all the panic shopping, it can be intimidating to venture out to get everything you need. That’s OK. Get what you can and improvise the rest.
    Our people have survived greater quandaries with a little ingenuity and determination.If you can’t get matzah, cut some cardboard into squares or large circles (you can even put dots on them with a marker for texture, but do not consume—this is purely decorative). Swap out sriracha for horseradish. Use literally anything green. Squish trail mix into a charoset-like paste.Use a regular plate as a stand-in for a seder plate. It’s the thought that counts.
  8. Bring a little Purim to Passover.

    Never forget to make the long evening pleasant enough or entertaining enough to the children. Remember this night should be a night of remembering and giving it further to the next generation.Nobody would be against making some good fun and nobody would object to have people being dressed up as Moses, Aaron, Miriam, etc.Got kids? Great, they can be the frogs. Or the lice. It depends how stressed they’re making you.
    Got teens? Do the whole seder using Snapchat filters, then do a TikTok dance break in the middle of the seder for added social media cred. But only if, like, you know the choreo.
  9. A night different from all other nightsAlso do not forget that 14 Nisan is ‘super special’.Laugh a little hysterically and cry only a tad when you get to the Four Questions and someone has to ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
  10. A Liberation to celebrate

    Do your best, have fun and remember that though we are in isolation to protect ourselves, friends, families and fellow human beings everywhere, we are still free to be Jewish or Jeshuaist and celebrate our heritage and salvation by the Highest and Strongest!

Let us not forget to show our love to God by remembering what He has done and still does, and let us show our love to others by taking enough precautions to keep everybody safe and in good health. Even when we might be very isolated in our own cosy home, let us feel the union with brothers and sisters all over the world, and let our prayers be with them all.

Please pray:

I will seek to make this world a better place, for all people, today and tomorrow. To this, in their memory, I pledge myself. Ani ma’amin. Am Yisrael chai.

A Jewish community eating the symbolic Passover food during the Seder evening, the evening before the Passover festival (picture-alliance / dpa / Robert Fishman)

As you come to the end of the seder, remember that this uncertainty, while it already feels like 40 years of wandering in the desert, is temporary. The Israelites made it eventually. So will we.

Next year, in person!

For 2020:

Keep safe and well, having a lovely Passover seder.

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Preceding

CoViD-19 warnings

Anxiety Management During Pandemic Days~

Hope on the Horizon: Pandemic Anxiety Management II~

Pandemic Anxiety Busters~

Mel Brooks saying “go home” to Max Brooks

Christian Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic

7 Ways To Boost Your Immune System in Lockdown

Love in the Time of Corona

Recrafting our World

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Reminders

  1. The unseen enemy
  2. Under-reporting the total number of coronavirus cases
  3. Coronavirus on March 11 declared a global pandemic on March 31 affecting more than 177 countries
  4. No idea yet for 14 Nisan or April the 8th in 2020 Corona crisis time
  5. Only a few days left before 14 Nisan
  6. First time since Nazi time no public gathering
  7. Voor het eerst in jaren weer een Pesach in isolatie
  8. Even in Corona time You are called on to have the seder
  9. A meal as a mitzvah so that every generation would remember
  10. A night different from all other nights and days to remember
  11. Let’s Think About Redemption Differently
  12. At the Shabbat HaChodesh: readings about blood, liberation and purification
  13. Zeman Chereisenu – the time of our freedom
  14. Ki Tisa – Torah Portion
  15. Egypt, Moshe and Those who never felt they belonged there
  16. In Every Generation: The Return of Anti-Semitism – Pesah Day 1, 5779
  17. The Most special weekend of the year 2018
  18. Call to help others
  19. How should we worship God? #7 The Breaking of Bread
  20. How should we worship God? #8 Love one another

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Filed under Activism and Peace Work, Announcement, Being and Feeling, Educational affairs, Headlines - News, Health affairs, Lifestyle, Positive thoughts, Religious affairs, Social affairs, Welfare matters, World affairs

The Exodus Story: History or Myth?

A biblical scholar reviews the historical claims of the biblical book of Exodus.

The Book of Genesis ends with the story of Jacob going down to Egypt with his family. The first chapter of Exodus tells how the 70 members of Jacob’s s clan evolved into a large people, cruelly enslaved by the kings of Egypt. The enslavement is presented in the Bible as a crucible that forged the nation of Israel. Oppressed for several centuries, the Hebrews suffered until Moses, of the tribe of Levi, brought up in Pharaoh’s household, led them to freedom in the name of God, an omnipotent deity unknown to the Hebrews prior to their liberation.

The Exodus Narrative

File:Karolingischer Buchmaler um 840 002.jpg

Moses empfängt die Gesetzestafeln – Karolingischer Buchmaler

The story of the Exodus is related in a few dramatic chapters: 600,000 men left Egypt on a long trek to freedom. God punished their enemies (the ten plagues of Egypt), drowned Pharaoh’s army with its chariots and cavalry in the Red Sea, and brought them to Mount Sinai where they witnessed the revelation and received the DecalogueGod’s commandments to his people.

The First Commandment is the essence of Jewish monotheism:

“I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus, 20:2‑3).

By the time they reached the frontiers of Canaan after forty years in the desert, the Israelites had become a strong, united nation, and were ready to conquer the Promised Land.

Is Exodus History?

The historical validity of this narrative is controversial. Some scholars stress the lack of Egyptian evidence testifying to the enslavement of the Israelites, pointing out that very little Egyptian influence is discernible in biblical literature and in ancient Hebrew culture. Other scholars, how­ever, claim that it is highly improbable that a nation would choose to invent for itself a history of slavery as an explanation of its origins. If such a tradition exists, it must reflect an historical truth.

Were the Israelites Slaves?

Statue of Akhenaten in the early Amarna style.

Statue of Akhenaten in the early Amarna style.

There is no doubt that slavery played a major role in the structure of the Egyptian state. It is also true that some form of single‑god worship was introduced into Egypt by Akenaton in the middle of the fourteenth century B.C.E., and this may have been a source for Jewish monotheism. Finally, the reign of Ramses II (1290-1212 B.C.E.), known for its costly wars and vast building enterprises, may well have been the era of cruel oppression described in Exodus.

But the only contemporary Egyptian source which actually mentions Israel is the stela (pillar with inscription) of King Merneptah from the fifth year of his reign (1207 B.C.E.), recording among his many victories:

“Carved off is Ashkelon, seized upon in Gezer…Israel is laid waste, his seed no more.”

This inscription implies that an entity named Israel existed in Canaan at the time, yet it is difficult to determine precisely what it was. One thing, however, may be regarded as certain: if the Israelites indeed emerged out of Egypt, their migration took place before the end of the 13th century B.C.E.

Explaining the Passover Miracles

This single fact, however, does not resolve the enigma. Obviously, the orthodox tradition accepts the biblical account literally, despite all the miracles it describes. There are scholars who seek to explain the miraculous events in rational and natural terms. They refer to ancient disasters which befell Egypt – floods, drought, slave rebellions, and invasions. Could these not be the ten plagues of Egypt? And the drown­ing of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea – can it not be explained by the ebb ­and flow of the marshes between the Nile and the Sinai Desert?

Problems and Contradictions in Exodus

Ipuwer Papyrus (officially Papyrus Leiden I 344 recto) – often put forward in popular literature as confirmation of the Biblical account, most notably because of its statement that “the river is blood” and its frequent references to servants running away, but these arguments ignore the many points on which Ipuwer contradicts Exodus, such as the fact that its Asiatics are arriving in Egypt rather than leaving, and the likelihood that the “river is blood” phrase may refer to the red sediment colouring the Nile during disastrous floods, or may simply be a poetic image of turmoil.

Other scholars, however, totally reject the historical validity of Exodus. The story of Ipu‑wer, they say, describes the anarchy in Egypt at the end of the third millennium B.C.E. and has no bearing on the biblical story; and 600,000 men (“not counting dependents”) means that approximately two million Hebrews left Egypt– is it possible that such a vast emigration left no trace in Egyptian sources? The biblical narrative, they point out, is full contradictions concerning the topography and the sequence of events – a feature typical of folktales, not of historical texts.

Intermediate Theories about Exodus

Between the two opposing views there are several intermediary theories. One hypothesis is that the Israelites left Egypt in two waves, and that by the time the second wave departed – in the middle of the thirteenth century – the first group had already settled in the land of Canaan, mostly around the town of Shechem in Samaria. Another possibility is that there was no organized mass emigration, but rather a constant flow of thousands of people from different Semitic tribes who left Egypt, roamed the desert, slowly infiltrating the land of Canaan where they eventually formed a single nation.

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Preceding articles

Adar 6, Matan Torah remembering the giving of Torah

The smaller the miracle the greater the wonder

Commemorating the escape from slavery

Days of Nisan, Pesach, Pasach, Pascha and Easter

The Best Bedtime Stories

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Additional reading

  1. Today’s thought “God spoke all these words” (February 15)
  2. Today’s thought “Ability to see that God is not dead” (May 12)
  3. 14 Nisan a day to remember #5 The Day to celebrate
  4. Most important weekend of the year 2016
  5. 1,500 to 1,700 years old Chiselled tablet with commandments sold at auction

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Related

  1. Reading the Jacob story as a prequel
  2. Out of Egypt
  3. Passover celebrates freedom to worship
  4. A Seder Supplement for Passover 5778: “The 10 Sacred Acts of Liberation”
  5. 10 Things You Should Know About the Exodus
  6. Exodus 14: Making Pharaoh Obstinate
  7. The Book of Exodus, Chapter 34
  8. The Book of Exodus, Chapter 35
  9. #36 – The Ten Commandments [Part 2] (Exodus 20b)
  10. The Leaven of Bitterness
  11. Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Exodus redux

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Filed under History, Religious affairs