Most of my friends growing up were Jewish. From them I heard ample stories about lavish dinners and long days at Temple. I figured Christmas and Easter were better holidays, especially since in my house neither involved church or much in the way of ceremony (other than letting the ladies be served first).
But when I was in high school, I became closer with one of my friends. As such, I was asked to his family’s Passover feast every year. I didn’t know what to expect but I was assured there would be ample Manischewitz on the table. I was sold. The dinners were always nice. His family cooked an awesome spread, and once every one sat down, we began the ceremony. The program his father had prepared gave me a general sense of what was happening when (and a subtle explanation for why), but I was lost. I was still happy to be included. Though after my second glass of Manischewitz, I wasn’t as concerned about the details.
Now that I have finished Exodus, I understand better what I was helping to celebrate.
I generally avoid going out to dinner with a large party (anything over 12, really). You can’t spend time with whom you want to, the service can be slow, and problems arise when the check hits the table. I cannot imagine dealing with a caravan of a million people.
The Bible mentions over 600,000 Israelites fleeing Egypt, but this speaks to the men (you know, the ones worth counting, because women and children didn’t matter in this era). So we’re looking at getting a million people to listen to directions. I’m guessing this group would be easy to find in the desert, were someone so inclined. I also don’t really understand how you could keep that many people together. I picture the cluster-f*@&^ of people in a marathon—say almost just south of 50,000 for New York—and I start multiplying. Not a pretty picture.
Although they were living in unfavorable conditions, they didn’t make it exactly easy for Moses—lot of complaining. You’d think that they’d have a little more faith in the man who had rescued them and then PARTED A SEA to secure their escape. Would they really have rather been taken back to Egypt (and bondage) than live like they were living? Then I think about people who continue to live with abusive spouses and it’s not hard to believe.
Still, you have to give these people credit. They’d been oppressed for so long that they agreed to pick up and move—without much to go on—based on the word of two men (Moses and Aaron). That’s some faith. It’s also something worthy of multiple celebrations a year. The great part is that they like to include outsiders to share in their history and jovial spirit.
Better still, my friend’s family never asked me to believe what they believe or renounce anything. They were happy to share their holiday with me, to show me their way of life. Breaking bread with them was respect enough. If only other people understood that you don’t have to foist your beliefs on others, that room exists for different ways to live.