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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 10:35 AM
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Secular Passover Haggadah
Secular Passover Haggadah
Time to Rewrite the Script:
A Passover Haggadah for Secular Jews

by David Voron

Do you change your mind in response to new evidence? Of course, you say. But what if the new evidence contradicts your most deeply-held convictions? And what if these convictions are embedded in a set of beliefs shared with like-minded others in a social network that provides a sense of family and community? In other words, if the evidence threatens the warm fuzzy glow of group identity, does the evidence have a chance? Lets find out.


In addition, archaeological excavations do not support the Biblical Exodus story. Modern archaeological techniques are able to detect evidence of not only permanent settlements, but also of habitations of hunter-gatherers and pastoral nomads all over the world as far back as the third millennium B.C. However, there are no finds of a unique religious community living in a distinct area of the eastern delta of the Nile River (Land of Goshen) as described in Genesis. In addition, repeated excavations of areas corresponding to Kadesh-Barnea, where the Biblical Israelites lived for thirty-eight of their forty-eight years of wanderings, have revealed no evidence of any encampments. Finkelstein and Silberman point out that, although the sites mentioned in the Exodus story are real, archaeological excavations indicate that they were unoccupied when the Biblical Exodus would have taken place. For example, the Bible refers to messengers sent by Moses from Kadesh-Barnea to the king of Edom asking him to allow the Hebrews to pass through his land. However, the nation of Edom did not come into existence until the 7th century B.C. 9 Melvin Konner, anthropologist and teacher of Jewish studies at Emory University, sums it up this way in his recent book Unsettled, An Anthropology of the Jews: Except for the Torah text, there is no decisive proof that the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, that they rebelled and walked away from the place, or that a leader such as Moses arose and took that people into the desert. 10 Futhermore, what evidence we do have, as discussed above, contradicts the Biblical account. How, then, did this fable come to be written?

Finkelstein and Silberman present the plausible thesis that the Deuteronomistic version of the Exodus, which brings together and embellishes the chronicles in the first four books of the Torah, was written during the 7th century B.C. The intent of the story was to rally the inhabitants of Judah against Egypt, which had become its most powerful enemy as Assyrian hegemony waned. Finkelstein and Silberman believe that the evil pharaoh in the Exodus story was actually modeled after the domineering Psamethicus I, who reigned from 664 to 610 B.C., approximately during the time that the Deuteronomistic version was written. This account was powerful propaganda that created an epic saga to express the power and passion of a resurgent Judahs dreams in order to gird the nation for the great national struggle that lay ahead. In fact, the Egypt described in the Deuteronomistic account is uncannily similar in its geographical details to that of Psamethicus. 11

According to Redford, the memories of the Canaanite Hyskos ruling Egypt and subsequently being driven out (though not enslaved and not Hebrew) most likely formed the basis for the Exodus story. 12 The sequence of plagues in the Exodus may be related to the ancient Egyptian belief that the inability to worship multiple gods causes illness. The Amarna tablets indicate that Akhnaten imposed monotheism on polytheistic Egypt during his reign between 1372 and 1354 B.C., allegedly causing the populace to suffer a variety of maladies, which abated with the restoration of polytheism by Akhnatens successor. 13 14 Jonathan Kirsh notes that the basket-in-the-bullrushes infant-Moses story is clearly a cut-and-paste plagiarism copied almost verbatim from a Mesopotamian text. 15 In the words of Daniel Lazare, the stories of infant Moses, the plagues, and final exodus are unconnected folktales, linked together like pearls on a string. 16 What we have, according to David Denby, is a self-confirming, self-glorifying myth of origins, with Moses as the hero of the greatest campfire story ever told. 17


See prior thread:

No evidence that Jews or Hebrews were ever slaves in Egypt

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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-26-08 09:37 PM
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1. As they sing in "Fiddler on the Roof": Tradition
Tradition of getting together and affirm one's belonging, I suppose.

Just as I think that Christians do not have to believe in the existence of Jesus to accept and believe in the teaching associated with him.
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Madam Mossfern Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-06-08 11:43 PM
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2. However, most modern Jews
look at the Passover story metaphorically.
Egypt "Mitzrayim" means 'narrow passage'.
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blueraven95 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-07-08 03:08 PM
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3. I'm not so sure that the story needs to necessarily be true...
for it to have a real and lasting effect.

Like most stories in the Torah, I don't think we need it to be true (or even totally true - who knows if there are real origins to the story that authors took poetic license with, potentially leading to the now impossibility of finding historical evidence to back up the story) for it to inspire or teach us how to be better people.

For example, the Passover exodus instructs us to stand up against bigotry and intolerance, while not being joyful over other people's defeat. I can not see how this could be a bad lesson, whether or not it comes from a true story.

I think it should be looked at in the same vein as the Patrick Henry "Give me liberty or give me death" story. I don't think it matters if it actually happened or not (it didn't), because it has inspired countless others to work that much harder to make the world a better and freer place.
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