My son brought the kids over today. While I was still furiously attacking the chametz (bread crumbs for the uninitiated, which are the foe of every devout Jewish housewife this time of year), I am always thrilled to spend time with my grandchildren.
They had just seen the cartoon version of the exodus from Egypt, Prince of Egypt, produced back in the Nineties. While cartooning has improved fantastically since then, they were so excited by the experience, they couldn’t stop talking, each one interrupting the other.
We took them out for pizza, and the last cupcake before the flourless eight days ahead. And when we returned, I suggested we put the film on again. They were all for it.
I took off my shoes and snuggled up next to them on the couch and watched along.
Yes, great liberties were taken with the Biblical tale. An Egyptian brother for Moses invented, Aaron turned into the bad guy, Tziporah, Moses’ wife, given to him as a slave girl, who escapes….etc. etc.
But as I sat back and lost myself in the tale, I realized as perhaps I had not done for some time, what a unique, exhilarating, and inspiring history we Jews have to share with our children. The story of people cruelly enslaved by those who were themselves slaves to a religion of death worship and idolatry. We were a people who had fallen to the depths of degradation and hopelessness in which release seemed impossible under normal circumstances. Helpless, we could do nothing against the physical abuse, or even the murder of our babies, except pray to our God, the God of our forebears Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for deliverance. That He remembered us and granted our people freedom in such a spectacular way lit up the hearts of my grandchildren, and I’ll admit – even though it was a cheesy Hollywood production—my own heart as well. The direct intervention of God again and again in granting our people our freedom and our homeland is unique to the Jews.
I read an article recently by Ben Shapiro in Truth Revolt (truthrevolt.org/videos/ben-shapiro-why-jews-vote-leftist). In it, he brings out the following facts: American Jews are the least religious group in America. A December 2012 Gallup poll showed only 41 percent felt religion was important in their daily lives. Twenty-two percent of Jews say they have no religion. According to an October 2013 Pew poll, just 38 percent of Jews say their Jewish identity has anything to do with Jewish religion at all. “… just 30 percent of Jews say they are very attached to Israel. Only 43 percent of Jews have ever been to Israel. And here’s an amazing statistic: just 40 percent of Jews believe God gave Israel to the Jewish people. 27 percent say God didn’t, another 5 percent said they don’t know, and 28 percent said they didn’t believe in God at all.”
As I watched the greatest story ever told, and saw the excitement on the faces of my grandchildren as they internalized in the most fundamental way possible the astounding origins of their Jewish identity and their amazing history as descendants of slaves who were given not only freedom, but a book of ethical commandments and then led to a promised land, I felt incredible sadness for all those Jewish children who had never been so lucky to have their history and heritage passed down to them as the treasure it is.
This year, I hope you will all think about this and take the opportunity of using Seder night not to rush through to the brisket, but to explain to your children and grandchildren the breathtaking saga to which no other people in the world can lay claim. I hope you will make them feel as excited, proud, and amazed as my own grandchildren. I hope you will make it a story they will never want to forget, a story that will shape their lives for the good, and make them an indivisible part of their people, Israel, a proud, productive, free people who exemplify what it means to live in a homeland given to you by God.