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  1. Thoughts: Sam could use a reread of the material before he presents it,
    but the gist is correct. The Exodus story is fascinating in multiple aspects,
    especially with the interpretations it has acquired over time.

    For example, a lot of hay has been made regarding finding patterns in the
    Plagues (e.g. the Kli Yakar (17th century commentary on the Bible, literally
    “prized vessel”) argues that they come in groups of 3,3,4, each with a different
    purpose (to prove God’s dominion over the Egyptian gods, to show God
    distinguishes between people (i.e. not random chaos), to show God is supreme)).

    Moreover, it gets a *ton* of expansion in the Midrash
    (=Rabinnic EU/WoG traditions), as all Biblical stories do.
    In some cases, you get significant subplots and explanation of plot holes from


    03:15 Well, it’s more like a dance of celebration, but yeah.
    04:25 It’s even less justified than that.
    It’s “Well, they’re numerous and scary,
    and *if* there’s a war they *might* join the enemy.
    Logical conclusion:
    Let’s make sure that never happens by embittering them towards us.”
    Also, text explicitly says the torturing was 100% counterproductive
    – “so much as they would torment them, so would they thrive and prosper”.
    04:40 The decree was to have the midwives kill all newborn Jewish boys
    (apparently, no consideration for continuation via maternal lines)
    and when they conscientiously objected (and were Divinely rewarded for it),
    was to have *everyone* – including the Egyptians! – throw their newborn
    sons into the Nile.
    (Midrash explains this was due to a prophecy that the Jews’ saviour would
    be born at that time, and that it wasn’t clear whether he would be Jewish
    or Egyptian)
    (Also, little Midrashic subplot: Moses’s father was the leader of the Jews
    before him, and hearing of the decree, he decided not to have children if
    they were going to get killed anyway. The Jews follow his example.
    Miriam, his daughter, points out that he’s replacing uncertain death by
    certain nonexistence. He gets the point, has a kid with his wife.
    That kid is Moses.)
    04:50 Sam, remember how last time you said there’s no J sound in Hebrew?
    It’s Yocheved.
    05:25 Interesting detail: Pharaoh’s daughter notes that the kid’s a Jew.
    She knows all along. No mention is made of when Moses finds out about his
    identity, but judging by the fact that the narration refers to the Jews as
    his brothers and that he grows up with his family, he probably also knows
    all along. (BTW, Midrash has it that Moses had 7 names, like any good OC.
    Also, it points out that the name he goes by, even when talking to God,
    is the one Pharaoh’s daughter gave him. It says this is to reward her for
    her good deed.)
    05:40 Actually, Moses’s flight from Egypt is a bit more dramatic than that.
    First, he saves a Jew from an Egyptian, killing the Egyptian in the
    process, with no witnesses. (Indeed, he looks either way to make sure)
    The next day, he breaks up a brawl between two Jews, and one of them asks
    him if he’s going to kill him like he did the Egyptian.
    Moses realises his perfect crime wasn’t so perfect after all – indeed,
    Pharaoh orders him killed – and runs for his life.
    (Midrash has him escape his own execution.
    Also, Midrash gives him an entire side quest taking care of a succession
    crisis in Kush, which accounts for the next forty years of his life.
    By all accounts, he is 80 during the time of the Exodus.)
    He then goes to Midyan, protects the seven daughters of Jethro, the local
    priest, from linecutting by other shepherds, and waters their flock.
    They go home, tell their father, and he invites Moses to eat.
    And marry his daughter Tzippora.
    Moses settles down, becoming a shepherd for his father-in-law, until he
    gets his Call to Adventure from God.
    06:25 Moses is all like “Who, me? Who am I?”.
    God gives him a speech, and visual aids, and Moses asks
    “But I’m not an orator.” God says “I *make* people into orators.”
    Moses says “Wait, don’t you already have a prophet – Aharon?”
    God gets pissed off, and says “You know what, fine. You lead, he will
    speak. Just go already. And take your miracle staff with you.
    Besides, I know he’ll be happy for you, so don’t argue from there.
    Also, your death warrant is expired, so you really have no excuses.”
    06:35 Pharaoh’s expanded torture is a scene later – Moses goes to Pharaoh, makes
    his pitch, Pharaoh retorts he’s never heard of Moses’ God, and to stop
    bothering the Jews while they’re “at work” and making trouble.
    Moses actually negotiates, scaling down from a full-scale release to just
    letting them have a religious holiday three days’ travel away, to appease
    God. (Note: This smaller demand occurs again later, but it involves
    having all the Jews and their possessions at the festival.
    Unsurprisingly, Pharaoh sees this as a transparent attempt at escape)
    Pharaoh won’t even give them that, and decides “Well, if you have the time
    to think of freedom and holidays, clearly you guys aren’t working hard
    enough. Make the bricks too, same quota as before.”
    The Jews, naturally, ask Pharaoh “Why u do dis?”. Pharaoh points to Moses.
    Moses, turns to God and says “Someone’s plans are looking *fucked*”.
    God retorts “I’ve got this, you insolent brat. How the times have
    changed – your grandparents wouldn’t have dared question me like that.”
    07:00 Plagues were “Free my people, or else I send Plague X.” “No” “OK, here’s
    Plague X” “Wait, wait, I’ve changed my mind. Take the Plague away and I’ll
    let them go” “OK, but no takebacksies” “Ha! You really thought I’d let
    them go?”. This goes on for a while. (Midrash: 10 plagues over 10 months)
    In fact, halfway through, the Egyptians are like “Wait, so if we let them
    go we *won’t* get eldritch weather? Where do we sign up? Egypt is done for
    anyway.” Moreover, Pharaoh’s wizards note that Moses’ “magic” is beyond
    their level and is clearly divine.
    07:15 Staff into snake is a separate audience with Pharaoh, to establish
    paranormal cred.
    Water into blood is just Aharon striking the Nile with Moses’ staff.
    (Midrash: First three plagues are done by Aharon due to Moses’ gratitude
    towards the Nile/dust for not killing him as a baby)
    07:55 (Midrash: Hail was fire/ice mixture. Imagine Greek fire encased in ice.)
    08:40 On the Seder we make a big point of the fact that during the tenth Plague,
    God himself went down and killed every firstborn. No fog.
    His warning? “Around midnight, I’m coming down to Egypt. And every
    firstborn, from the firstborn of Pharaoh down to the slaves’ firstborn,
    and all animal firstborn, will die. And there shall be a great outcry in
    all of Egypt, such as never was, and never will be. And as for the Jews,
    not even a dog’s bark will be heard, so that you shall know that I
    distinguish between Egypt and Israel. And all your servants will come to
    me (Moses) and bow to me and say ‘Leave. You, and your people.’.
    Only then shall I leave.” And he leaves Pharaoh in rage.
    09:35 Red Sea, not Dead Sea.
    10:15 Four questions and four sons are separate.
    Four questions refer to visible differences from year-round practice,
    which the children are supposed to ask about (indeed, Passover is marked
    by weird customs *designed* to be weird so that the children will ask
    “Why so different?”).
    Four sons are four different ways the Bible addresses the question of
    “If you ever get asked, why do this, this is what you say.” in very
    different ways. Talmud derives the Bible is referring to different
    motivations for the question, explaining the answers.
    Questions and answers the Talmud gives are a bit weird, though,
    and many liters of ink have been spilled explaining them.
    As usual, people will find whatever suits the pulpit.
    10:30 Sam nearly nailed the pronunciation. Second word is “Nishtana”, not
    “Nishtanach”, though.
    11:10 600ml (21 fl.oz.) at least, per person, over the course of the night.
    Kiddush (literally “sanctification”) is the “bringing in of the holiday”.
    Maggid (literally “tells”) is people telling the Exodus story plus some
    extras, plus some thanksgiving for having had the Exodus.
    One line even goes “If it weren’t for God, our children and us would still
    be in Egypt”
    Birkat Hamazon (literally “blessing of the food”) is the after-meal
    prayer. On special occassions (circumcision, marriage, Passover,
    celebratory meal,…) it is said over a cup of wine.
    Hallel (literally “praising”) is more thanks to God.
    Re: Elijah: Some people have this custom, some don’t. Some drink from his
    cup, some don’t. My family does drink. Presumably he had his sip and left.
    11:50 My family adds cinnamon sticks into the charoset to symbolize the twigs
    that they’d put into the mortar to make it solid. And red wine to
    symbolize the Jewish blood that was shed in Egypt. In fact, Jewish law
    recommends using red wine throught the night if possible (for symbolics),
    unless white wine of superior vintage is available (to honor the festival)
    12:25 The egg symbolizes the chagiga (celebration) offering, brought by every
    Jew on a festival. This is an offering in addition to the Pascal lamb.
    Another symbolism is that eggs are traditionally given to mourners to eat
    (since they’re round, they remind one of the cyclicity of life).
    (Indeed, on the eve of the Ninth of Av (a fast day in rememberance of the
    destruction of the Temple), some families (including mine) have the custom
    to eat an egg dipped in ash and a round bread)
    12:45 Haven’t heard of the concept of L’Dor V’Dor. It fits, but I haven’t heard
    of it having a particular name.
    13:25 It’s seven nights and seven days.
    13:40 Basic prohibition is nothing leavened. European branches of Judaism have
    the custom of not eating legumes as well, since they were usually mixed
    with grains in Europe (which would then cook and get leavened).
    North African and Near Eastern Jews generally don’t have this custom.
    However, there are many, *many* more such customs of not eating some food
    due to a fear of leavened dough being present in that food, either
    historically or on some off-chance. (One common one is not to eat wetted
    matzah, for fear some flour was improperly mixed and will now be leavened
    from the introduced fluids).
    14:15 Afikoman corresponds to the Pascal lamb (it used to be eaten as dessert,
    and nothing may be eaten after it to keep the taste in one’s mouth).
    15:00 Afikoman hunt is one more activity to keep kids awake and engaged.
    15:25 Hiding a part of the Afikoman is done as a symbol of our previous poverty
    – a person living day-to-day never eats an entire portion, for fear he
    won’t have food on the morrow. So, too, we keep a piece of the matzah
    for later.
    16:00 Actually, Midrash has it 7-9 people entered heaven alive.
    Among them are: Hanoch (a righteous man from before the Flood)
    “He is no longer here, for God took him” (a phrase unique to him)
    Elijah – ascended in a flaming chariot
    Eliezer – the servant of Abraham
    Batya (literally, “God’s daughter”), Pharaoh’s daughter
    16:25 Elijah also appears during circumcisions.
    The custom to open the door is European, and has several symbolisms,
    including a display of trust in God’s protection
    (indeed, we don’t pray to awake the next day as we do all year because of
    this reason) and a display of hope that Elijah will come to announce the
    arrival of the Messiah (who according to some opinions will come on a
    A prayer of vengeance against Jew-haters is recited – probably arising due
    to the pogroms in Europe. (Elijah is associated with religious zealotry).
    (Apparently, this and some other strong anti-antisemite passages were used
    as ammunition to justify the Talmud burnings of the 13th century).
    (I’m less confident of this paragraph – some of it is last-minute
    Wikipedia checks).
    17:40 I’m not sure to what extent the symbols are inherent and to what extent
    they’re constructed.
    19:30 Boiled egg is eaten in some families before the main meal.
    Center pieces can be eaten afterwards, they’re just not part of the rite.
    (Mostly used to supplement the foods on the plate which are eaten in other
    parts of the Seder).
    Roasted bones are not eaten to avoid appearing to eat the Pascal lamb.
    Back in Temple times, the Pascal lamb would be served as dessert, instead,
    and this is one way to remember that loss.
    Customs differ on what, precisely to put in place of the Pascal lamb.
    My family uses roasted chicken wings, since we avoid all lamb as another
    way to avoid appearing to eat the Pascal lamb.

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