Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Monday, April 02, 2007


Passover People

The king of Egypt a long time ago was called the Pharoah. Egypt is a very old country, and still is a real place. The Passover story tells a myth about things that happened there a long time ago. Israel, where the Jews lived, is also a real place quite near to Egypt. The Jews and the Egyptians are real, and the Pharoah is real, but many of the details of the story are myths. There is some history and some imagination in the story.

About 3000 years ago, the Jewish people left their homeland Israel and went to Egypt. At first the Jews in Egypt were ok, but after a while, the Pharoah made them work as slaves, and he would not let them leave Egypt. They had to build buildings with bricks and mortar. Maybe they built pyramids or palaces like the ones that you could still see in Egypt now. We eat pretend mortar called charoses at the Seder, and we have salt water to remember their tears and bitter herbs to remember their hard lives.

Moses was born in a Jewish family in Egypt at the time when Pharoah was making the Jews become slaves. (Remember, that was a very long time ago.) At the beginning of his life, Moses was adopted by Pharoah's family, and he grew up as a prince. But then Moses became a leader of the Jews and began to ask Pharoah to let the Jews be free and return to Israel. Pharoah kept saying NO.

Finally, after Moses kept asking for the Jews to be free, God made 10 plagues to force Pharoah to let the Jews leave Egypt. Plagues are very bad things like grasshoppers that eat all the crops, darkness in the daytime, and diseases that make everybody sick.

When the Jews were leaving, Pharoah and his army of Egyptian soldiers chased them. But the Red Sea parted, which meant that the Jews could get away between two big walls of water. Then Pharoah went back to Egypt and the Jews were free.

After they all escaped, Moses and the Jews were in the Sinai desert for 40 years, until they were able to get back to the land of Israel. Moses was a kind of magician, and he saw lots of magical things, like a bush that was on fire but didn't burn up. He went up a big mountain where he received an important law and history book for the Jewish people. The story of how Moses convinced Pharoah to let the Jews go free, led the Jews, and received the book is the Passover story we tell at the Seder. Freedom is the important idea of the Passover story. At the Seder, people sit on a cushion and lean back to show that they are free and not slaves.

Miriam was Moses's older sister. It was her idea to put baby Moses in a basket in the Nile River where the princesses went swimming. As Miriam had planned, the princess found Moses and decided to adopt him and raise him as a prince. Then Miriam told the princess that she had a nurse for Moses: it was their own mother. So his real mother and sister took care of him even though he was adopted.

When the Jewish people went through the Red Sea escaping from Pharoah, Miriam sang and played on her tambourine. Then Moses, Miriam, and all the Jews were in the desert for 40 years, and had to wander from place to place. Miriam had a magic well that gave them water to drink wherever they stopped. With the water from the magic well they also ate magic food called manna, which came from the sky.

Miriam and Moses had a brother named Aaron. He also helped Moses lead the Jewish people out of Egypt and through the desert to Israel. He helped them when they were baking the first matzohs to carry with them out of Egypt when they escaped, and he helped them when they were wandering around. When Moses was on the mountain, Aaron was their leader.

Elijah the Prophet
Many years after Moses, another great leader in Israel was named Elijah. He told the people a lot of important things so he is called a Prophet. The myth about Elijah is that he never died, but stays alive forever. He walks around everywhere in the world, and he checks if people are doing good deeds. At the end of the Seder we put a cup of wine on the table for Elijah and go and open the door. Maybe he will come in and drink the wine. If he does there will be peace on earth.

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