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The Greatest Story Ever Told

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 ( 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.

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11 comments on “The Greatest Story Ever Told”

  1. Ora Leshem

    Thank you so much. You are amazing and your positive belief is so refreshing when there is so much anti and negative feeling towards us. Pesach kasher vesameach. Blessings to you and your family. Ora Leshem.

  2. Naomi R.

    Naomi. Your words touched me very deeply. Every year as we recite the passages in the Haggadah I do think of the miracles of Pesach and I’m still amazed. We have such a rich heritage and I pity the Jews who through the years have dismissed the story of the Exodus as ancient and of little relevance to us now. How sad when we are exhorted to consider it as if it just happened. Chag kosher v’sameach to you, your loved ones and all Klal Yisrael.

  3. leon glass ------ jhb -South Africa

    your comments on ” the Pesach story ” , was so interesting .
    as a youngster , in Port Elizabeth , South Africa , we had ” Judaism classes on Saturday [ shabos morning ] , for the years \ period , leading up to our Bar \ Batmizvah . We were ” really diligent ” ,with these studies , & were ” tested ” , & this together with our ” Cheder classes ” , gave us a fantastic grounding . Unfortunately , most of us , once ” Bar\Bat mizvahed ” , felt that , ” we had now qualified ” ! Significant , to your commentaries though , i must say , that for myself ,i took eg.,the ” Pesach story ” , & all of the ” Biblical stories ” , for granted ! Now i realise ,” in my more senior years ” , the no., of ” Miracles , we Jews experienced , & one of the most important , is that we have ” our beloved Israel back ” .
    I can only speak,for what we see in SA,& THAT is that many “youngsters”, are instilled with the same upbringing,that we had.Unfortunately,this does not seem to be the case in USA.,& MANY OTHER COUNTRIES .Maybe i’m generalising , but that is the feeling, that we in SA,GET .
    i : ]k bN

  4. martin

    Your facts about American Jews are quite true especially in small towns..90% of the Jews where I live are totally non observant..Thank G-D I persist and travel 50 miles to orthodox Shul….

  5. Ann Pangbourne

    As a Christian, with Jewish ancestry, I believe we are born out of the root that is Israel so I, too, was excited to hold a Seder in our home and to share with a number of friends and just two children, the greatness of G_d, and His faithfulness to His chosen people. It is a truly great story, made even more amazing by our belief that Yeshua is the Messiah, and his use of the symbols of Passover to illustrate His sacrifice to bring freedom to all mankind so that we can have a relationship with G_d. Thank you, Israel, for preserving the faith, preserving the Feasts and preserving the Scriptures. Truly you are a people who bring blessing to all the nations.

  6. Esther Whitmore

    Where was our G-d when the Germans slaughtered so many of us and when so many died in Russian pogroms, in Arab pogroms. You must forgive those Naomi who lost their religion; many of them feel Jewish and are decent people, helping Israel, giving to charities, helping to repair the world.Have a wonderful Passover as we hope to have, Esther Whitmore, Miami Beach.

  7. Susan Marx

    I think you mean the least observant, not the least religious. There is a difference. My nephew doesn’t observe much of the “rules”, but he identifies as a Jew and he has the neshama of a Jew.

  8. Dalya Horowitz

    Love your article. I am from a home that had no seders, no Passover, no holidays of any Jewish sort – just Zionist. The first time I went to Israel I worked on a kibbutz where they didn’t believe in G0d.
    Through the years, my husband and I have become more traditional and we do a complete seder. The children and grandchildren know all about the holidays, Shabat and are ardent Zionists. We are so happy and excited to share Pesach with them and our friends – it is a privilege to be Jewish and I’m so glad to have found it and be able to share it with our loved ones.
    Have a Happy and meaningful Pesach.

  9. Ellen Calderon

    Happy Passover to you and yours from the Calderon family in Florida. We Americans were told by commercials on tv that the story of Masada would be on CBS for 2 nights. Well it was very disappointing, unlike the cartoon you mention, it was called “The Dovekeepers” and was all about the sex lives of 2 women who wound up on Masada. Very bad advertising because they just “happened” to be on Masada during that terrible time. I’m glad I didn’t tell my grandchildren to watch it.

  10. Warren T. Young

    AMEN! YOU ARE TO BE COMMENDED FOR SHARING the truth with us Naomi. Hopefully – soon perhaps, there will emerge a time in human history when finally all mankind find it safe enough to put away our text books of hatred and weapons of war. May God bless your family. Warren Young

  11. Abe Himelstein

    Dear Naomi,
    What ever you write always has a message to carry forth
    A chag kosher Pesach
    Kol tuv
    Abe Himelstein
    Palm Beach Gardens Florida

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