web analytics
October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Story We Forget To Retell


Nearly 52 years ago, on October 5, 1956, a newly released movie billed itself as “the greatest event in motion picture history.”

“The Ten Commandments,” Cecil B. DeMille’s telling of the Exodus story, did in fact win an Academy Award and become one of the highest-grossing films of all time. But the film had another impact no one could have anticipated: it made DeMille the most successful and familiar Hebrew-school teacher of modern times.

Most Jews today understand the narrative of the Exodus and its theological significance solely through the cinematic interpretations of Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Yvonne De Carlo, Edward G. Robinson and Vincent Price. The movie is still broadcast every year on television around Passover, attracting millions of viewers.

It’s too bad the movie screenplay deviates from the original Author’s intent. DeMille got some things right – the 10 plagues, the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea and the extraordinary wonders performed by God – but he also got something terribly wrong.

Due to the overpowering influence of the Cecil B. DeMille school of interpretation, most people view the Exodus narrative as one of God redeeming a passive Israelite slave population. This is not accurate. In fact, before they were liberated, the people of Israel had publicly and courageously affirmed their absolute faith in God.

Up until the 10th plague, the Jews were indeed passive in the process of their liberation. The Torah relates that God heard the cry of the Jews suffering under the burden of slavery. “The Israelites were groaning under the bondage and cried out in pain; and their cry for help from the bondage rose up to God.”

Still, the people of Israel had not been proactive in any way. They had not organized or planned a revolt or even selected a leader. In fact, Moses was a leader who came to them from the outside.

The Jews’ passivity ended, however, when God commanded Moses to direct the people of Israel to challenge the authority of their Egyptian masters by painting their doorposts with the blood of slaughtered lambs.

In Egyptian society, sheep were treated as gods. During certain periods of the year, they were paraded in pomp and honor on elevated platforms so the masses could pay homage to them.

God had told Moses to instruct the Israelites to paint lamb’s blood on their doorposts to save them from the 10th plague – the killing of the first-born. The painted lamb’s blood would serve as a public proclamation that this was an Israelite home whose inhabitants believed in the Jewish God and who believed their children would be saved while Egyptian families would lose their first-borns.

Can anyone imagine the anguish Jewish parents must have felt when Moses told them to take lambs, keep them on public display for four days, slaughter them, feast upon them and paint the blood on their doorposts? This public proclamation made the Israelites extremely vulnerable.

What’s more, Moses’s performance record until this point was 0 for 9. Through the ninth plague, Moses kept promising that the Jews would be freed, but it wasn’t happening. In fact, the slaves’ toil became harder as Pharaoh increased their burden with each new plague. The blood on the doorpost meant certain death for that entire household if Moses’s promise did not materialize.

This was the moment in history when each Jew had to make the ultimate choice. They were being asked to risk their lives and their families’ lives to follow Moses’s direction. This was a challenge of ultimate sacrifice and affirmative belief in God.

How many of us today would be willing to do the same? For that matter, how many of us today have absolute faith in God?

In 2006, Harris Interactive conducted a survey of religious beliefs in America among various religious denominations. In answering the question, “Are you absolutely certain that there is a God?” the Jewish response was the lowest of all the denominations. Only 30 percent of Jewish respondents said that they were absolutely certain there is a God.

On April 19 this year, Jews around the world will gather with family and friends to celebrate the 3,500-year-old tradition of the Passover Seder. The purpose of the Seder is to recount the liberation of the people of Israel from slavery, an event that enabled our acceptance of the Torah at Mt. Sinai and our formation as the Jewish people.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Story We Forget To Retell”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Colin H. Kahl, VP Joe Biden's new national security adviser.
Biden’s New NSA Chief Mocked Israeli Nuke Fears
Latest Indepth Stories

There is not even a hint of recognition that Hamas deliberately fires rockets at civilian targets in Israel while storing arms and rocket launchers among its own civilians in Gaza.

No one with any sanity would dream of rationalizing or justifying the depredations perpetrated on the Arab world by ISIS.

With $2 billion on hand the Islamic State is an extremely well-funded terrorist group that may pose a major international crisis for the U.S. and the world. Learn about their rise to power and the toll they’ve taken thus far.

In the recent Gaza war and its aftermath, we saw a totally illogical reaction from the world.

A., a teacher: “I do not know a single Gazan who is pro-Hamas at the moment, except for those on its payroll.”

Is the global community clear in its response to these extremist groups?

Like our fabled character, Don Quixote, President Obama has constantly spawned his own reality.

Boroujerdi was informed that “the pressures and tortures will increase until he has been destroyed.”

Fatah: Hamas stole relief aid for Gaza and distributed it amongst its followers in mosques.

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Washington remains ignorant of the need to dismantle alliances with various Muslim countries.

Defeating IS requires bombing its strongholds and recognizing the violent nature of Islam.

Abbas again used the UN to attack Israel, distort history, and undermine prospects for peace.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot even agree to move their clocks back on the same day.

More Articles from George D. Hanus

It makes no sense. It defies logic. You’ve got two reliable statistics from two reputable sources and yet they stand in utter opposition to each other, like statistical non-sequiturs.

Released in 1987, Where’s Waldo? was the first of illustrator Martin Handford’s Waldo series of books to become a sensation. Where’s Waldo? introduces readers to the eponymous hero, a distinctively dressed young man who sets off on a worldwide journey. Waldo travels to everyday places, like the beach, ski slopes and the zoo, each of which is detailed by two-page illustrated spreads filled with people and activities. Somewhere amidst the intricately crowded scene is the camouflaged Waldo, and readers are asked to scour the detailed illustration to locate the lost traveler.

Nearly 52 years ago, on October 5, 1956, a newly released movie billed itself as “the greatest event in motion picture history.”

There is an allegorical story about a luxury passenger ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean that hits an iceberg and begins to sink. On the lower decks, the crew and passengers make a valiant but unsuccessful effort to plug the hole in the ship’s hull. On the upper deck, first-class passengers rearrange the deck chairs, sun themselves and play shuffleboard, seemingly oblivious to the disaster around them. Meanwhile, the ship’s band plays on.

Every year Forbes magazine publishes a list of the highest paid individuals in the world. This year Forbes informed us that the actor Johnny Depp made $92 million while Nicole Kidman was Hollywood’s highest paid actress, commanding an estimated $16 million per movie.

Every January, in an annual rite, nearly half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. About half of those will pledge eternal servitude to their new diet plans. Sometimes the diets work – in the short run. We drop a size or two, look younger, more svelte and bask in insincere gratuitous compliments from colleagues and friends. But two-thirds of Americans who lose weight gain it back within a year. Over 90 percent gain it back within five years.

Everyone is familiar with the age-old question: If a tree falls in the forest, but nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? To some, that may sound like a silly rhetorical quandary, but it actually provides a wonderful metaphor to describe a huge problem facing today’s Jewish community.

In Yiddish folklore, the real-life Polish town of Chelm was characterized as a legendary community of fools. According to this folkloric tradition, Chelm’s residents were exceedingly proud of their tradition of non-wisdom and convoluted insight into the world’s problems. They viewed themselves as brilliant.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-story-we-forget-to-retell/2008/04/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: