On the evening or Rosh Hashanah, the eve of the Jewish new year, we found out that our dear friend had died. I’m not a practicing Jew. I was raised as both, Jewish and Christian, celebrating mostly nothing while having been Christened and Bat Mitzva’d.
Yet still, the news getting to use in the last night of the “old year” was a strange omen.
We invited a friend over, and to occupy our baby while we adulted on the balcony, my guy randomly put on The Prince of Egypt cartoon on Netflix (the cartoon rendition of Exodus – you know, how the Jews left Egypt / Moses the ten commandments, etc.)
I’d never seen it before and laughed. My guy is not a Jew, and this was the Jewiest thing he could find. Wrong holiday. But ok.
As I watched the cartoon with our daughter, feeling all sorts of emotions from the death and the “historic” plight of my people, I awoke the next day to the thought:
“Is Exodus a historically backed fact?”
This felt a little odd to me. I felt a little guilty. I never questioned this story. Ever. Even as I don’t take the Bible as historical fact, it simply never really occurred to me until now, and the guilt of asking was now there.
Did I have the right to ask these questions? After all, the Hebrew school that took us in all those years ago, as the poor immigrants we were, was so kind and loving. It felt like a slap in the face of our beloved Rabbi. It was almost like asking whether the Holocaust had happened! (Unfortunately it did.)
I felt awful but search I had to.
Google provided some interesting information about Exodus, written by Jewish scholars, which felt logical – there is no evidence of the nearly 1 million people wandering in the desert for 40 years. There is no evidence of Canaan seeing a sudden and large influx of people (the place they settled after wandering.) There is also no proof whatsoever in any Egyptian texts that the Jews were enslaved there for several thousand years. It only exists in the Old Testament.
These scholars also agree that amongst Jewish Rabbis, there is a suppressed, hush hush behavior about all this. “We know, but we don’t need to talk about it.” The most important aspect of this, of course, is that Passover, as a major Jewish holiday, would have to be questioned, which these Rabbis don’t agree with.
They say that the amount of people who came to Israel after wandering the desert is irrelevant. There could have been a handful of these guys, possibly imprisoned by Egyptians, etc., who’s story is still worthy of telling.
But it all makes me wonder. Even as someone who identifies as “part Jewish”, it was a strange experience to have a story so important, so basic to the Jewish identity basically debunked.
I think this points to the most important and glaring elephant in the room –
Trust your gut, your own experiences, listen to your heart, your meditation, your own – often quiet, yet perfect – voice and follow that.
Sharing identity with a people is powerful stuff. It helps us relate and grieve and have power as a people. But it’s also not necessary at all.
You are what you are. Celebrate that.