As a little girl, I went to both Hebrew and Sunday school and partook in lots of Jewish cultural and religious traditions with my family. However, to this day, nine times out of ten, when I find myself in a conversation trying to draw upon any Jewish history, my first thoughts always take me to an old movie I saw as a little girl, the 1950’s epic saga, The Ten Commandments. I was probably six or seven at the time. I had been allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch it while next door my parents rocked out to Barry Manilow. I credit the entirety of my musical style to having heard the somber, celebratory, and terribly confusing mashup of, “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Copa Cabana”.
That said, I was equally as excited watching an old-timey, Technicolor biblical tale, as I was watching the repeated infomercials for Ginsu Knives. Both had perpetual unexpected twists and turns: one filled me with a biased, hyperbolized, fictionalized account of ancient history, and the other showed me that a single knife can slice both a tin can and a tomato.
And while years of education, family, spiritual, and cultural traditions have been the building blocks of my identity, I still find myself sometimes asking, “W.W.M.M.D?”.- What Would Movie Moses Do?
I think it’s safe to say that film successfully brainwashed my little spongy skull early on. Now whenever I need to recall what I think is Jewish historical information, I find myself smooshing together movie scenes, images of Harrison Ford, and my fondness for alien conspiracies. I also may reference a snack cracker or two.
Take a recent conversation for example:
“What is the reason for Passover?” Asked a non-Jewish friend.
Oh, you see… It’s when Moses well, he was working in this quarry and then he finds out he’s royalty and then he accidentally dates his sister. Then he finds out he was born in a Triscuit that was sent down the river by some nuns who found him when they were fishing for Gefilte Fish. Since he was not a fish, they gave him to the queen, Elizabeth Taylor. Then he grew up with an odd fake tan.
His brother-in-law didn’t have any hair and was jealous that Elizabeth Taylor loved Moses so much and also that he had a gorgeous mane that never seemed to tangle. The brother-in-law then found out Moses was secretly a Jew and so he sent him to go live in a small house with other dark-haired Caucasians.
Later on, when Moses was helping to move some of the giant alien bricks into a pile, (because we all know aliens are involved) he saw the unfair treatment of one of his co-workers who was hanging out near the water cooler. Moses decided to help this old man who was resting because he was well over four hundred years old, and he was taking his 15. Then a guard got mad because where did this old man think he was? Walmart? Then he struck the old man and Moses got super mad.
He told the guard he was not going to make friends with that attitude and then yelled out to all the thousands of Jews and alien helpers that they “were not gonna take it, no we’re not gonna take it anymore.”
Next thing you know, Moses is in an alley playing mahjong with some pals when the Lord pulls him aside and says, “Moses, things are a mess, can you help a brother out and lead your gang of misfits out of here? I have a few tricks up my sleeve, I can help. But they will be really unique tricks. Like, you’re not initially going to think, “Hey, that’s a great idea Lord!” But believe me, they will do the job.”
Moses says, “Sure!” (he was in fact, the original Yes-man) and things start to go all bat-shit crazy from there.
Moses meets with the bald brother-in-law, because he’s like, the guy in charge now, and he asks him, “Hey, my people are not fond of these working conditions anymore and we’d like to look elsewhere for employment. I’d advise you to let us go, because, well, I know people, and let’s just say, They are prepared to help us out.”
But the Pharaoh, yeah I think that’s what his new handle was, he says, “Naw, I’m the boss man. Deal with it. Go eat your matzo balls, or whatever it is your people eat.”
Then some bonkers stuff started to happen in rapid succession. There was a hail storm in the desert, frogs came and hopped into everyone’s soup, then crickets came, which seems kind of redundant, so much hopping and all, but you know, the Lord did say his tricks were a little left of center.
Then Moses goes back to Pharaoh and is like, “Er, um, I don’t mean to say, I told you so, but I strongly urge you to let me and my peeps go. Remember how I said, I know people? Well actually, it’s G-D. I KNOW G-D. And, He pissed. He said, you better let us go or everything is going to go sideways real soon.
Pharaoh’s only response was, “Which god is that? We got like a hundred different ones, can’t you read the writing on the wall Moses?”
Pharaoh rudely snickered and called him a ‘dum dum’ under his breath. He then pointed to the hieroglyphics decorating his living room/den and laughed.
But the joke was on Pharo because he was having his living room/den remodeled, and those hieroglyphics simply said, ‘Do not paint above this line.’
Moses just shook his head and as he left and said two things:
“Brother, you’re gonna be sorry. But also, I loved the new credenza, it really opens up the space.”
So Moses goes home to his house, which has like nineteen people living in it, and says, “Everyone, I heard from the Lord again and he’s got a plan to get us out of here. Full disclosure, it’s pretty messed up and I’m not in support of his process, but we need to kill some goats, smoosh their blood on the door frames, and keep our eyes closed for as long as Indiana Jones tells us to.”
The next thing you know, a gaggle of Jews and alien builder helpers were off killing goats and smooshing blood in doorways all night. What a mess. But the next morning, a bunch of people died who’s houses weren’t covered in goat goo. So Pharaoh was finally like, “Ok you’re right, I should have gotten vaccinated from the Angel of Death”. Fuck you guys, get outta here. And since these aren’t prison rules, we’ll give you a head start.
Even under the worst of circumstances, it’s incredibly hard to get a Jew to give up bread. So when Moses said to his people, “YO we gotta go, like now!” All his people were like, “Ok ok, we just need a little nosh to take with us for the road. Since we don’t have time to cook bagels, we’ll just take these dry, tooth-shattering, leather-sandle-flavored, matzos with us.”
So twenty minutes later, Moses walked out of Cairo with like, ten thousand Jews and twenty thousand bags of matza.
They walked for a long time. I wanna say like, 40 days or something. Then they rested, ate all their matza, (this was the first known account of stress-eating) and had wicked heartburn.
And one can only assume they kvetched. A lot.
Late one night when all ten thousand people had built a campfire they started doing some questionable stuff with gold statues. I think they were rubbing them, trying to get a genie to come out. Or maybe they were humping them. Either way, they were dancing around with boobies and petzels flailing in every direction. Coincidentally, Moses had decided to go on a hike up a mountain to get some ‘me time’.
Before he could settle in to do some much-needed toe clipping, his ol’ buddy, Jehovah, boomed down at him, unpleased. He was like, “WTF Moses? I got you all out of that hellhole and now you’re toasting some gold bull statue and didling each other? That’s some bullshit, if you’ll pardon my uncreative use of wordplay. I’m peeved. Now, I’m gonna take a timeout to cool off. But in the meantime, y’all need to start setting some real goals. Maybe think of putting together a vision board.
An awkward silence followed as Moses stood ashamed, drawing circles in the dirt with his feet.
Oh, forget it, lemme just do it for you.” (This was the first documented case of codependency.)
So then the Lord sets a bush on fire, and because Moses thought he saw a four-leaf clover, he reached into the burning bush. He didn’t find the clover but he did come out with a giant tablet/vision board the Lord made for him.
“Just follow these instructions and you all should be good to go. Also, if you smoosh a little marshmallow in between two matzo, it’s simply delicious!” And then the Lord made a smacking sound with his Lord lips, making what sounded like, “mnom mnom mnom”.
“Thanks G! I’ll let ‘em know.” Moses balled his fist to his chest then put a peace sign in the air and headed back down to meet his people.
By the time he got back he’d grown a massive quarantine beard, his hair was all bushy and tangled, and he’d aged like 120 years. But apparently no one at the bottom of the hill had changed at all.
Moses screamed out to them, (slightly annoyed they still had their bikini-ready bodies) “Hey everybody! G-D doesn’t want you to worship stuff that doesn’t matter. So no more idolatry, no more comparing who’s got the nicest fly swatter, and also, I really need someone to help me brush out my hair.”
But no one listened. They kept dancing and drinking wine, which even back then was probably crappy Manischewitz. Plus, no one came to help him comb out his knots.
Understandably, he got mad, yelled, and then smashed the tablet into two pieces with his bare hands. Luckily someone had remembered to bring the Roomba and all the broken pieces were quickly swept up.
I think after that everyone stopped being so noisy because it was like, you know, how back in school, when the class would get super rowdy and anger the teacher so much, they would crack and have a nervous breakdown right there in front of the kids. Yeah, Moses was riding that fragile line, robes all frayed, flies in his beard, and as you know by now, those tangles were really bumming him out. So after that, the gang felt bad about their behavior and calmed down. (This was the first documented case of Jewish guilt.)
So after that Moses said, “Get some sleep. Tomorrow we swim with some sharks. Or is it fishes? I always get those two sayings confused.”
And the next day, or maybe it was like ten years later, (the Bible can be so vague when it wants to be) they were approaching the Red Sea, but then sure enough, all ten thousand of them happened to turn around at the same time, wondering if they’d turned off the stove, when they noticed they were being followed by Pharaoh and his soldiers. They were gaining on the Jews who were still hungover from too much Manischewitz and terrible matzo sandwiches.
Moses mumbled to himself, “Sheesh.” But as a last ditch effort, he thought he’d try to reach the Lord one more time to see if he had any more tricks up his sleeve. Hopefully He’d forgiven them for being such heretical slobs in the desert.
Right as the Jews stopped at the foot of the Red Sea, Moses raised his staff, and probably those tablets also. Because they were made of rock and pretty heavy, he might have had someone else carrying them all this time because they had to have been, like, at least ten pounds. Maybe more. Who really knows how much rocks weigh? Especially when they are flattened out and have words carved into them. Those words probably made the rocks even heavier.
So Moses asked his friend, we’ll call him Jerry, to do him a solid.
“Jerry, can you hold these a sec? (clears throat) Thank you, Jerry.”
Raising his staff to the sky and also his other free hand, he bellowed, “Lord, I know we were kind of pig-ish back there in the desert, but we have really been studying that vision board you made us and we think as a group, we are ready to put on our big-kid pants and level up.”
And then, wouldn’t you know it, the big G came through! The sea opened up as though someone had taken a giant jelly knife and sliced it in two. Moses was like, “Really, more walking? Like, I need you to be super sure we are better off walking into the ocean.”
Moses turned to Jerry who gave him a righteous fist pump and that was all the sign he needed. He knew it was Go-Time. In his big Moses voice he hollered, “Ok people, let’s move out. But whatever you do, don’t look the fish in the eye.”
Just like that, ten thousand Jews walked across the parted sea. But that thing is like 350 kilometers across and hell if I know what it is in miles. So I’m guessing it took them a good forty-five minutes to cross that sucker.
By the time the Egyptians got to the water, the sea had closed up and Pharaoh had to turn around and go home. Apparently, some lesser known stories recount that Pharaoh drove all that way just to tell Moses he left his keys in Pharaoh’s living room/den. He was simply returning them to Moses to keep him from being locked out of his tent.
Oh wait, was your question, “What is the meaning of Chanukkah?” Shoot, lemme start over….