"Avadim hayinu lefaru bemitzrayim" (We were once slaves in Egypt)
Pesach is coming again.
This holiday lasted longest in my family home. And it was always celebrated with the preservation of all traditions. Including inviting friends to celebrate it together. I remember this solemn mood and the feeling of something sublime. I didn't really wonder what kind of holiday it was. I only knew Mah Nishtanah, these four questions, which my younger brother later took over:
"Tate, tate. Ich vil dich freigen fire kashes: Why is this night different from all other nights?".
I remember the questions because of them I had my 15 minutes of fame. Our mistress at the Hebrew school chose me to ask questions at the school Seder. The whole following month I was pointed out in Niebuszewo Jewish community: "That's the one who asked the four questions!" That the lady chose me because at that time she was dating my uncle is a completely different story.
I didn't know what my father was talking about at the Seder celebration because he read it in a language I never learned. But I remember Karpas, Charoset, Maror, breaking matzah, wine and "bhoire pri agufen", a chalice for the prophet Elijah, the incomprehensible Haggadah, dripping wine with every plague and singing. Dayeinu, Ki Lo Naeh and Chad Gadya. Especially the latter:
"And the Almighty appeared, blessed be Him. And He killed the Angel of Death, who killed the butcher, who slaughtered the bull, which drank the water, what put out the fire, which burned the stick, which killed the dog, which ate the cat, which bit the goat, which my father bought for two bucks. One goat kid. One goat kid. Chad gadya!, Chad gadya! "
It is these last two words that my brother and I joyfully uttered.
And the final "LeShana haba biJerushalaim!" (Next year in Jerusalem!).
Of course, I know the history of the holiday. That nice official one and my own interpretation.
The official one begins with Abraham, the first man to believe in one God. Joseph, son of Jacob (Israel), son of Isaac, son of Abraham, was Pharaoh's chief steward. He brought his father and brothers and all their tribe to Egypt. And they lived there prosperously and multiplied. But after the death of Joseph and all his generation, a new Pharaoh did not like the expanding tribe of Israel.
So the Israelites were turned into slaves, and the Pharaoh ordered every firstborn son in Israeli families to be drowned in the Nile river. Fortunately, Moses' parents did not obey the order, and the Pharaoh's daughter found the basket with Moses flowing down the river. Moses was raised in Pharaoh's palace and his nanny (his own mother) told him about his Jewish heritage. After killing an Egyptian who was abusing an Israeli slave, Moses fled to the land of Midian, where he became a shepherd. It was there that God appeared to him in the form of a burning bush and ordered him to return to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh be free for the tribe of Israel, as in this famous song:
"Go down, Moses
Way down to Egypt land;
Let my people go!"
Pharaoh was not very much to let the Israelites go, and only 10 plagues, sent by Almighty, forced him to agree to it.
So the Israelites owe much to the Almighty. The release from Egyptian bondage, the encouragement of the wealth of the Egyptians, the parting of the sea and leading dry feet the people of Israel through. And plunging the pursuers into the water depths. And meeting the needs of the Israeli people in the desert for 40 years. And the bestowal of the Sabbath, and the bringing to the Mount Sinai. And the revelation of the Torah. And the land of Israel. And the building of the Temple.
Praise the Almighty for this!
In my non-kosher version, there is this Moshe Khapoir (upside down boy) who remembers some less pleasant stories. Such as, for example, what his dear brothers did to Joseph, so this poor man ended as a slave, and only his interpretation of the Pharaoh's dream about seven fat and seven scraggy cows raised him to the rank of chief steward in Egypt. And about this otherwise known (Shoah?) exaggeration of the Almighty, who does not punish the Pharaoh himself, but, one by one, all the Egyptians. And he prattles the minds of the Egyptians, so these fools give both gold and silver away to Israelis. And he protects the Israelites not only by dividing the waters, but also by drowning all persecutors (although he could settle with the shut off the waters before their entry). And why should we choke on God's taking care of the food in the desert for 40 years, when these poor people had to wander there for so many years just because the Almighty waited until all those involved in the Golden Calf affair had passed away?
Well, well. Looking at the fate of the Chosen People it cannot be said that the Almighty is moderate or fair in his actions. As they say, unsearchable are His ways.
And the figure of Moses himself. The guy stuttered and his brother Aron had to spoke for him. By planting history on a modern ground, one can treat Moses as a kind of ancient Lech Wałęsa. He talked and did what he was told. Like Lech, Moses was a galleon figure who thought he was driving the ship. Despite the fact that Aron was at the wheel. The best proof of that is that after all this the priestly sinecure fell to Aron and his sons, and that the offspring of Moses himself were totally forgotten.
But it's just the nagging of an old growler who has to complain all the time.
I wish you all "A frajlichen Pesach!" And to our Polish friends, additionally, "Happy Hallelujah!"