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Moses and the Exodus

Moshe is arguably the greatest figure in Judaism other than God. He helps bring the Israelites out of slavery and leads them for the next four decades, until his death just before they enter the Land of Israel. His journey is told in the Book of Exodus which speaks of the physical and spiritual birth of Israel as a nation. It also contains stories of enslavement and liberation, of revelation and wanderings, of belief and apostasy. It’s a story that has inspired Jews and seekers of justice across the globe to aspire and dream of freedom.

The Jewish Story Explained is based on the book Letters to Auntie Fori: 5,000 Years of Jewish History and their Faith by Martin Gilbert.

Glossary

Moshe – Moses

Yocheved – Jochebed

Yehoshua – Joshua

Aharon – Aaron

  • Review
  • Discussion
  • Activities
  • Reflection
  • Further Learning
  1. Who was the mother of Moshe?
    • Tamar
    • Yocheved
    • Miriam
    • Tzippora
  2. Why did Moshe leave Egypt?
    • He could no longer stand to see the injustice of slavery
    • He heard a voice from God that told him to leave
    • He killed an Egytian who was striking a Jew
    • He was looking to find a wife
  3. Which of the 12 spies gave a positive report of the Promised Land?
    • Igal and Shammua
    • Habi and Geuel
    • Yehoshua and Caleb
    • Ammiel and Gaddiel
  4. How long did the Jews wander the desert before entering the Promised Land?
    • 49 days
    • 50 days
    • Three months
    • 40 years
  5. Why was Moshe denied the right to enter the Promised Land?
    • He hit a rock instead of speaking to it
    • He smashed the 10 commandments
    • His siblings spoke lashon hara (gossip) about his Ethiopian wife
    • Moshe never wanted to enter the land himself
  1. As a slave in Egypt, Yocheved hid her precious baby to prevent his murder. But, after three months, she could no longer hide him quietly, and thus chose to send her infant son down the river in a basket. This act of bravery changed the course of Jewish history. Giving away a child for their own benefit is one of the hardest decisions a parent can ever be forced to make. If you could meet Yocheved on the day she put Moshe in the basket, what do you think she would say about the process that led her to make this fateful decision?
  2. “Some time after that, when Moshe had grown up, he went out to his kinsfolk and witnessed their labors. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsmen. He turned this way and that and, seeing no one about, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (Exodus 2:11-12) There are many midrashim about what motivated Moshe to kill this Egyptian, an act that would change his life. What do you imagine he saw that day that so filled him with rage to kill this Egyptian and why do you think this act led him to flee Egypt almost immediately afterwards?
  3. With the immense joy that came with the sight of the Jews crossing the Sea as a free nation, the angels wanted to sing praises to God. A midrash records God scolding the angels who wanted to sing His praises saying: “My creations are drowning in the sea and you are singing praises?!” The Torah adds that “on the day God rescued the Israelites from Egypt, the Israelites saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. The Israelites saw the great power that God had unleashed against Egypt and the people were in awe of God. They believed in God and in his servant Moshe. (Exodus 14:30-31) Why did the angels want to sing before God? What kind of songs do you think they were going to sing? What can we learn from this Midrash about God’s attitude towards human beings? Should we rejoice in the downfall of our enemies?
  4. The Children of Israel are eager to receive the commandments, accepting all terms and conditions before even reading the contract or consulting any appropriate legal advice. Rashbam says on Exodus 24:7, we will do and we will listen נעשה ונשמע, “we will carry out what God has said already, and we are also prepared to listen (obey) to what God will command from here on in.” What aspect of the religious experience Jews had up to this point in history led them to collectively accept upon themselves laws they did not yet know and understand? Have you ever accepted a legal system, social or political philosophy without understanding all its details, because it felt right to do so at a certain moment in time?
  5. The most popular custom is to hold a Pesach Seder, where families sit around a table and talk till the small hours of the morning about our journey to freedom. Rambam explains that:“When a person eats and drinks at the festive Seder he is obligated to provide food for the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, along with the rest of the poor and despondent. But whoever locks the doors of the courtyard, and eats and drinks with his wife and children, and does not provide food and drink for poor or suffering people, this is not a “mitzvah celebration” but a “celebration of the belly” … and this kind of celebration is a disgrace” For this reason, it is very common for Jews to invite guests to their Seder celebrations. If you could invite one person from Jewish history to your Seder, who would it be?
  1. Use a ready made lesson plan about Moshe and the exodus HERE.
  2. Create a YouTube video explaining who you would invite to your Seder night, if you could invite anyone from Jewish history.
  3. Birthday Card
    • There is a common Jewish blessing for a birthday that one should live to 120. The source of this greeting is from Deuteronomy 34:7, where the age of Moshe upon his death is given as 120, at which age “his eye had not dimmed and his vigor had not diminished.” The blessing therefore carries the implication that the receiver should retain their full mental and physical faculties to the end of their life.
    • For this activity, choose a friend who is having a birthday in the coming month and write them a birthday card that has this phrase, plus a quote or idea from the Exodus story that relates to the life of your friend.
    • Suggested Greetings
      • English: May you live until 120
      • Hebrew: עד מאה ועשרים שנה‎: Ad me’ah ve-essrim shana
      • Yiddish: ביז הונדערט און צוואַנציק; Biz hundert un tsvantsik
  4. The world’s first liberation movement
    • The story of the Exodus has inspired many liberation struggles around the world. Oliver Cromwell declared it to be the only historical parallel to the Puritan revolution. Franklin and Jefferson both proposed designs for the Great Seal of the United States that depicted Israel’s delivery from Egypt. The Pilgrims saw themselves as Israel escaping Egypt and making a new covenant with God.
    • Zionists re-enacted it in establishing the State of Israel and American civil rights activists recounted it over and over in their struggle for freedom. Suffragettes saw women’s liberation as a natural extension of slave liberation and the ANC in South Africa derived inspiration from Moses in their struggle against apartheid.
    • Research one of these liberation movements and write a one-page report about how they borrowed a quote, word or idea from the exodus to give legitimacy and inspire their struggle for human rights and freedom.
  5. Give your students our Kahoot on Moshe and the Exodus
  1. If you could ask Moshe one question about a decision he made in his life, what would it be?
  2. If you were Miriam or Aharon, how would you feel about your brothers’ decisions in life and the way he is remembered today?
  3. Does the story of the plagues that led to the Exodus have new meaning in your life during this time of a global pandemic?

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