Passover Story
Mon Apr 13, 2020 12:57

Passover Story 
By Jacob Stein

Narrator: A long time ago, in the ancient land of New York City, a wave of people, surprisingly skilled at arithmetic and basic accounting, washed ashore, and settled in the bosom of a great Empire. Unfortunately, they were the "tired, poor and huddled masses" in the words of Emma Lazarus that were inscribed on the great colossus that stood astride the harbour of this babbling city. Like mythic Lazarus, these people had an amazing knack for rising from the dead, and eventually they would form a great and powerful nation, Israel, but for the moment, they are slaves in this land, washing the windows and laying the bricks of modern day pyramids. This tribe of Jacob came to NYC, the promised land, in hopes of making their fortune but only misery awaited them. Crowded together in tenements, among the multitudes of the Empire this tribe toiled day and night in tragic conditions. Nevertheless, they kept their faith and did not forget the terms of their agreement with the landlord in the sky. The story I'm about to unfold deals with a man named Joe Schmoses and his tenant contract dispute with the evil Pharaoh corporation also known as the "Infernal Litigation," also known as the People of Israel vs. Pharaoh Corp. 

Much like our current situation with hegemonic global corporations, hegemonic means powerful for the kids in the room. Nice word Hegemonic, isn't it? Anyways, like the situation today, the evil Pharaoh Corp squeezed more and more profits off the backs of poor slaves, barely able to keep up with the cost of rent on their sweatshop salaries. Pharaoh Corp was a family business run by an Egyptian named Thutmose the Second. Thutmose's family controlled most if not all of the buildings occupied by the poor migrants of New York. Thutmose had a younger half-brother named Schmoses, middle name Joseph, whose adoption was a family secret. No one knew where Schmoses came from. When he was only a baby, he was left at the Rameses family door in a tiny wicker basket with his name Joseph sewn on the front. Schmoses and Rameses had been inseparable since childhood and as they grew older they eventually took control of the family business. Schmoses was given the important task of collecting rent money from the poor tenants of the family properties. Schmoses never felt any pity for the people that lived in these slums and in fact, felt superior to them in every way, until he met a girl named Sephorah during his daily rent collection and fell in love with her.

Because Sephora's family was very traditional she initially rejected the advances of Schmoses, who started making any excuse to see her including fixing every leaky faucet in her family's apartment. Soon enough, Schmoses was spending more time with her family then his own, which raised many a uni-brow amongst the Ramses' kin. On a Friday night, during one of their "Seders" ---Moses noticed an older woman at the gathering who seemed to be eyeing him sadly. After the meal, he approached this woman, who was named JoeBeth, but she ignored him, and afterward made an excuse to leave the party. Schmoses was truly puzzled by this mysterious woman. Later that evening, a man named Aaron and his sister Miriam approached Schmoses and explained that he better have a seat before they launched into a story that he needed to hear. Schmoses said "I've been sitting all night already, listening to everyone gab endlessly, what's the meaning of all this?" 

Aaron answered "The reason why my mother behaved so strangely toward you is because, well, you are her son, and that makes me your brother and Miriam your sister."


Narrator: To recap, Schmoses fell in love Sephorah, found out that he was really a Yid and that his whole life up until this point had been totally misdirected. That was a lot to take in, especially after a long "Seder" and it's four plus glasses of wine. His head spinning, either from the wine or the revelations of the evening, he left the party in a state of mental confusion. What followed was one heck of a bender... Schmoses felt that he was in a state of spiritual exile. He wound up drinking in a barren and dilapidated area underneath a freeway. Surrounded by weeds, trash cans, crumbled pedestals and cinder blocks, he looked up at the night sky and cursed his fate. Just then, a cylinder of garbage automatically caught fire and a voice came bellowing from within the flaming refuse...
(The following must be delivered in the nasal whine of a nagging mother)

G-d: "Schmoses, Schmoses...can you hear me Schmoses?"
Schmoses: "Yes, you're coming in clearly, whoever you are.."
G-d: "Good, because there is a lot of interference on this end...Listen, Schmoses this is your cosmic mother calling, I'm the real thing, the great and powerful, one and only, G-d of the Hebrews."
Schmoses: "What method of witchcraft is this?"
G-d: "Watch who you call a witch. Schmoses...I'm here because you love that girl, do you not?"
Schmoses: "Yes, I do."
G-d: "Well then you better head these words carefully, I'm going to tell you exactly what you have to do, what you've been preparing for your whole life, whether you knew it or not..It's called Mediation and it's going to be huge."
Schmoses: "Why have you chosen me? I'm no saint, I'm not even a believer..."
G-d: "You're a good boy Schmoses, believe me, I would know...I'm calling on you to play an important role in the future of your people...don't let me down."
Schmoses: "I'll probably regret this, but okay, I'll do it."

Narrator: The following is a re-enactment of a real-time mediation between Schmoses and Thutmose the Second, it provides many valuable insights for the wannabe negotiator and future lawyer or captain of industry.

---Second Intermission----

Narrator: The scene is the Rameses family penthouse, Schmoses along with Aaron show up and ask for an audience with Thutmose who is accompanied by many loyal advisors.

Thutmose: "Schmoses, the whole  family has been worried about you. From the looks of it you've let yourself go, left your beard to grow shaggy, your clothes to rot, have you at least bathed as of late?"
Schmoses: " Thutmose, my brother, I've come before you today not as one of your kin but as a representative of my people, the people of the covenant. I am here to scrap this terrible deal, I am here to ask you to free them from this contract, to let my people go."
Thutmose: " Schmoses, what's come over you? You've been cavorting with an inferior class, you are being manipulated by these immigrants to compromise your family's interests. I will not give into this request."
Aaron: "Schmoses, this doesn't seem to be going very well. I think it's time you mentioned the other thing."
Schmoses: "Thutmose, I am just a man, you may not heed my request, but I warn you, I'm representing a higher power."
Thutmose: "What power could possibly be greater than Pharaoh Corp?"
Schmoses: "I'm on a mission from G-d."
Thutmose: "Oh really, I'd like to see you prove it."
Schmoses: "I am warning you for the last time, there will be no turning back, once the wrath of G-d erupts. You will witness terrible Signs and Wonders."

Narrator: New Yorkers are pretty tough so if any city is going to withstand some biblical fury it's them, as we've learned from the Ghostbuster films and countless other Hollywood blockbusters. As plague after plague rained down on New York City, news reports on the radio went from weird to plain crazy in the space of a single day. Because Thutmose's heart was hard, he remained resolute in his refusal throughout the day as plagues pummelled the city. In order, the plagues were:

1. Water turns to blood.
2. Frogs.
3. Lice.
4. Wild Animals or Flies
5 Death of live-stock.
6. Body Sores.
7. Hail.
8. Locusts.

Narrator: By the time the lights went out, Thutmose's anger turned to absolute stubbornness and he ordered Schmoses and Aaron out  his palatial office. Later, after retiring for the evening, Thutmose kissed his firstborn child goodnight as he lay in his little crib. During the night, G-d again appeared to Schmoses and instructed him that he should send word to all residents in the neighbourhood buildings to mark their door with red paint so that the vengeful spirit of G-d would pass over their homes that night and not enter.

Tenth Plague--Death of the first-born

Historical Note--In Ancient Egypt, it was common that the first-born male child of a slave family, usually destined for a career in law, medicine or finance, would be drowned as a form of population control. 

Narrator: In the morning, overcome with grief, Thutmose finally agreed to let Schmoses's people go. Now that's how you negotiate!

For the rest of the story---Stay tuned for next year's instalment---it's quite epic, Schmoses becomes an action star worthy of a Bruce Willis portrayal, flatbread is invented and the tribe spends forty years in Brooklyn walking in circles...

Part 2

We pick up in medias res, that means in the middle of the action for those that don’t know their Aristotle. It was an unholy hour, around 5AM, and not a ray of sunshine was yet in sight. All the Jewish people of the Upper West side were being pursued through the shadowy streets by the elite commando forces of Pharaoh Corp straight down Broadway through Times Square and on into lower Manhattan. Schmoses’s people had enlisted hundreds, if not thousands of taxicabs to flee the evil henchmen that Thutmose had paid his blood money to in order to capture his tenants and force austerity and other punishments on them.

A sea of yellow cabs zipped through the streets followed by jeeps and military vehicles that were painted black and camo. There was Thutmose, standing upright in a suped-up Jeep speeding down the streets with binoculars dangling around his neck. The roads and side-streets were eerily empty of everyone except our freedom-bound Jewish brothers and sisters followed by Thutmose’s hired guns. Thutmose put the binoculars to his eyes and spied a yellow cab with a strange-looking flag planted on its trunk blowing in the air. The flag was white but it wasn’t a flag of surrender. Thutmose couldn’t see it clearly but he noticed the flag contained crude blue geometric shapes and two horizontal lines at the top and bottom. Wouldn’t you know it, there was Schmoses in the backseat.

Schmoses couldn’t believe his luck as he co-ordinated this exodus-in-progress. This had to be be the first time in his life that he went from uptown to downtown in less-than five-minutes. It was truly miraculous. The traffic lights were green as far as the eye could see. As the stores, restaurants, street vendors, and hot-dog carts blurred past him while his cab rapidly approached Chinatown, he knew deep in his soul that G-d was on his side, and would protect his people during this heated chase. It was like all the Jews had levelled up in a cosmic video-game and now were blessed with super speed.

Schmoses instructed his cab to stop in its tracks as soon as he reached the base of the Manhattan bridge. He wanted to ensure that the cab caravan crossed the bridge before Pharaoh Corp could catch up. One cab after another crossed the bridge, empty of any other traffic. Swoosh, Swish, Swoosh. The cars passed Schmoses who was standing like a general beside his taxi. Through the windows of the passing vehicles, Schmoses could see smiling faces, and thumbs raised in joy. They were grateful to him for his leadership and he was proud of his people’s courage.

Finally, the last car crossed the bridge and Pharaoh Corp’s forces of darkness appeared on the horizon, as grey clouds began to build in the distance. The weather was quickly turning. Schmoses jumped in the cab and said ‘Gun it.’ As his car passed the midpoint of the bridge, he saw a beautiful sight, a constellation of yellow cabs massed on the other side of the bridge by the waterline. Thunder started rumbling overhead popping everyone’s eardrums like a tiny drummer knocking a miniature kickstand. It was a strange sensation.

Thutmose commanded his troops to continue chasing Schmoses’ cars but there must have been radio interference scrambling the communication channels as a result of the electrical storm flashing in the sky. The electric vehicles that were part of the Pharaoh fleet were also malfunctioning. Their batteries were going haywire. The cars were slowing down. They refused to accelerate. ‘What’s going on? Keep going!’ —‘This isn’t what I’m paying for!’ —But it was too late, Pharaoh’s car was also beginning to slow and his driver was throwing up his hands in frustration.

That’s when the big miracle or the natural disaster, took place. If you are a New York City civil engineer you might not be as fond of the miracle appellation. A powerful lightning bolt hit of one of the suspension supports of the bridge. Then another bolt fell on the bridge’s foundations. Gradually, the metal bearings of the bridge began to groan under these new pressures. The intense friction of steel on steel created a sickening scream that pierced the air. The bridge was partially collapsing. Pharaoh’s army hadn’t even begun to cross over yet.

This was the most bizarre occurrence yet even when you include the unexplained increase of salt water content in the Hudson River that killed most of its aquatic life and created a temporary sea of blood that had surrounded the city just days before.

Thutmose cursed Schmoses in his heart but also out loud because according to his Google Maps, there was too much rush hour traffic now to ever catch up with The Tribe and there wasn’t any sensible alternative route to capture them either. Freedom! Liberty!

The Jewish people were safe at last. Now they would have to adapt to life in Brooklyn. It wouldn’t be easy. The apartments were far smaller on average and don’t get me started on the cockroaches. They would have to camp out for a little while while they could build up their savings again. Thutmose would surely have repossessed any belongings they left behind.

That night, as everyone gathered together in the parking lot of an abandoned baseball stadium, a sense of discouragement was building. They were happy to be free but they were also hungry, tired, and in a sour mood. They had no money and no food. What was this they had heard about manna from heaven? That thunderstorm didn’t drop any magic dew on their foreheads. Schmoses turned to his brother Aaron to ask for advice. Aaron had no answers so Schmoses prayed. Just then a swell of activity began rippling through the crowd. A young girl held up a piece of flatbread in the air. Then another hand followed. Then another. They were all holding flatbread.

The owner of a famous bagel house was among them. He was passing out hundreds if not thousands of what look liked pitas from brown paper bags. The baker had quickly grabbed what he could before escaping and the yeast of his bagels hadn’t had time to rise. The worst outcome had been averted again. They weren’t crisp Upper West Side bagels but they would do.

Now we reach the end of this year’s chapter. Next time you will learn about the 40 years The Tribe spent looking for rent-controlled apartments, an exploding pipe that burst when Schmoses smashed it in anger and something called The Promised Land—-Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, somewhere upstate? You shall find out next year.

Until then, Baruch Hashem. Have a happy Pesach!

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