One of the first stories I told publicly many years ago was the Passover story at a women’s seder (which means order in Hebrew) at the Victoria Jewish Community Centre. Naturally, I focused on the role of women. While delving into this well known story of freedom, I was pleased to learn that our traditional sources extol the courageous women, from Hebrew midwives to an Egyptian princess, who helped make this unprecedented event happen.
While Moses still takes center stage, he’s not the true hero of this story. In fact, his name is not even mentioned in the Haggadah, the book that guides our Passover seder meals. Our sages say the women alive at that time were the real reason we escaped slavery and this will be true in future, when everyone will be liberated from narrow ways of being by the courage of women. This isn’t some new feminist theory. This is old stuff.
Our sages also say that the more we tell the tale of our liberation from slavery, both personal and historical, the more we are to be praised. You can help tell this amazing story by joining in with the line: “It was because of the women’s courage, that the people became free.” At the end, Miriam, a Hebrew midwife known as Puah, will give you her own encouraging spin on the line.
I used to tell this story with the help of a tamborine, in honor of Miriam (a prophetess as well as Mose’s sister) who led the women in a celebratory dance after crossing the Red Sea. The women were so confident of their freedom, they packed their musical instruments even though they left in a rush. What would you take along if you had to leave in a hurry?
During the pandemic, when all my storytelling and most everyone else’s moved on-line, the sound of the tamborine just didn’t cut it, so I made do without it. I’m looking forward to the return to live storytelling someday soon, b’ezrat Hashem (with Divine assistance)
On Passover (March 27-April 4, 2021), Jewish people around the world eat symbolic food that recalls our people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago. The goal is to experience each seder as if we, too, were being liberated from a narrow place, which is what the Hebrew word for Egypt (Mitzrayim) means. The Haggadah (The Telling) that guides the process, however, doesn’t really tell the story of the Exodus. It only hints at it.
My version of the tale uses Midrash, fantastical yarns that flesh out the dry text. Our sages say if you believe all these stories, you’re a fool. But if you believe none of them, you’re also a fool. The truth lies somewhere in between, in the way these tales inspire us to live our lives each day.
I hope you enjoy this version of this ancient tale if you have time to listen. Even better, tell your own story! How have you overcome the limitations we’ve all faced in this unprecedented year?
Happy Passover! Pesach Samayach!