At sundown Wednesday, April 5, Jews worldwide will begin the celebration of Passover. Outside of Israel, the first two days of the holiday begin with a Seder (Jewish holidays begin in the evening). In Israel, it’s one day. During the Seder, we tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
But the Haggadah, the book that acts as the script for the Seder, only mentions Moses, the key human figure in the biblical Exodus story, MOSES!
Yes, THAT Moses… Prophet, miracle maker, former tennis player (He served in the courts of Pharaoh), and the prince of Egypt …got royally screwed.
Almost totally leaving Moses out of the Haggadah was not a biblical command. Nowhere in the book of Exodus does it say, “Thus sayeth the Lord, when you remember this day ‘ixnay on the Moses stuff.
The basic omission of Moses’ was a man-made, rabbinical decision. Everyone gets a participation trophy these days, and Moses did much more than participate. Moses still has to suffer the indignity of a lousy joke saying if he made a right instead of a left, the Jews would have all the oil.
Moses did have some great luck; he met and married a beautiful Nubian woman named Zipporah.
That was a lesson to anyone who followed the Torah that skin color doesn’t matter. Not only did Zipporah learn Torah, but she saved Moses’ life. God was so angry at Moses for not circumcising his first son Eliezer and was ready to take his life. Because she read the Torah, just in time, Zipporah realized the issue; she grabbed flint and circumcised Eliezer.
There was an issue with Zipporah, well, actually, her father. Throughout the Torah, he was known by at least three names Jethro, Reue, and Hobab. The lesson we are supposed to learn from that is never take a check from your father-in-law until you go to Google and do a background check.
The Haggadah was put together by Rabbis after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The Haggadah was created so Jews would have a guideline for Passover Seders. Before the Romans destroyed the Second Temple, a big part of the holiday ritual was animal sacrifices as required by the Torah. Those sacrifices could only be conducted at the Holy Temple. Therefore, sacrifices ended with the Temple’s destruction; Well—either because of the destruction of the Temple atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem or in anticipation that PETA would be created in the future.
The Haggadah-compiling Rabbis decided not to honor Moses, who not only led the nascent Jews out of Egypt but every time the Israelites screwed up. He prayed to the Lord to forgive them.
Instead of Moses, they honored Elijah– a prophet and a sourpuss. In chapter 19 of the book of Kings, God tried to get Elijah to pray for him to be merciful deciding punishment for the nascent Jewish people. But instead of asking for mercy, the prophet displayed righteous indignation. The sourpuss demonstrated that he could not accept that the Israelites were humans and had faults.
Think about it for a minute, at age 80, when most people are sitting on a rocking chair on their front porches yelling היי ילד תרד מהדשא שלי (hey kid, get off my lawn), poor Moses had to lead 600,000 Jews (called Israelites at the time) on a forty-year trip through the wilderness, rewarded with nothing but the newly freed slaves whining.
During that long wilderness walk, Jews began a tradition that still exists today, complaining about the food during a trip. Oy, the complaints! Can you imagine what nonsense poor Moses had to deal with? They complained about the food received directly from God. Come on, Folks! When the Creator of the Universe sends you food (manna), you don’t run up to your leader and say, “Hey Moses, what is this crap?”
When Moses was 120 years old, just when he finally got the Jews close to their destination, The Lord replaced him with a younger guy named Joshua (who was only 90
God told Moses he couldn’t enter the holy land because he hit a rock. Poor Moses never got to enter Israel and taste falafel, some good hummus, or look at the beautiful sea of Galilee while dining at my favorite Chinese Restaurant, Pagoda in Tiberias.
Moses deserved better treatment, not only because he endured forty years of leading those stiff-necked Israelites through the wilderness, being blamed for not asking for directions for 40 years, accused of making a wrong turn, and giving the Arabs all the oil for the past 3,500 years.
Near the end of the Seder, a glass of wine is poured, the front door is opened, and an ancient prophet is invited to parse his thirst with a glass of wine. Moses? No, Elijah. Not Moses but ELIJAH?!?!? What were those Rabbis who wrote the Haggadah thinking? Were they biased against Moses because he had a lisp?
Moses endured Pharaoh, the Exodus, and forty years of wandering in a desert-like wilderness with Jews constantly complaining about the food. But on the holiday, remembering the Exodus from slavery— he doesn’t even get offered something to drink! Not even a glass of freaking water (which today he could get without beating up a rock).
But Elijah, Mr. “ride a flaming chariot into heaven,” gets a glass of wine at every Seder, in every Jewish house worldwide.
The last line of the entire Torah begins with, “And there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” But the rabbis decided Elijah gets to party during Passover seders.
And guess what? Elijah is rewarded at every bris (ritual circumcision). The child’s parents put out an extra chair– for Elijah! So, while the guy who wouldn’t pray for the Jewish people gets wine on Passover and then bagels and whitefish at every bris. On the other hand, Moses, the prophet like no other who arose in Israel-gets bubkis.
Moses is called Moshe Rabbeinu, which means Moses, the Teacher. Perhaps he can join a teacher’s union and get to take off with full pay during a worldwide tragedy even when it’s over (like the AFT). After all, if anyone deserves union protection to be prevented from being cheated out of recognition, it’s Moses, the screwed prophet.
Did being left out of the Haggadah bother Moses? I am not old enough to have asked him myself.
Based on how he was described in the Torah, Moses wasn’t bothered. In the Torah’s book of Bamidbar (Numbers), we learn that “Moses was humble, more so than any other human being on earth.” The word humble doesn’t mean that Moses thought he was a regular guy with no significant achievements. He truly recognized his talents and achievements. But he didn’t take credit for them. He was humble in that he knew his talents were gifts from the Creator of the universe. No matter how successful, popular, or gifted he was, it didn’t go to his head because Moses knew they were really God’s accomplishments.
To everyone who reads this article, may you be blessed by God, have a blessed holy season, and most importantly, have a Chag Pesach Samayach-Happy Passover Holiday.