A Daughter of the Desert
By Ted Roberts
A young Israelite girl tells of the Exodus:
"I'll never forget Goshen. Even when we reach the Promised Land, which I know won't be long now. At least that's what my papa says.
I can't wait. A land of milk and honey, he calls it. Full of trees to climb and brooks where you can wade and feel the cool water kissing your legs and the pebbles on the soles of your feet. A land with no sword-swinging Amalekites. And plenty of grass for the sheep. I can't wait.
But even if I live as long as my old grandmother, who we had to carry out of Goshen in the donkey cart, I'll never forget those final days in Egypt. All during that last week there was an eerie sound in the air - either the insects - or the cries of the Egyptians - or worst of all the shriek of the Angel of Death as he flew over on his way to the homes of Egyptians.
And how could I forget the first Seder. My father and all the rest of the men had met with Moses earlier in the day and our prophet had explained that we were to feast on lamb, not our usual meal of fish and onions. It was the final supper in Goshen. The Sacrifice of the Passover, he called it. But most important, a dab of the lamb's blood must be used to mark our door - a signal to the Angel of Death that this was a Jewish home. And no one must go outside because death walked in the Egyptian night. After supper I laid in my bed trembling under a blanket and prayed that the Angel of Death was sharp-eyed enough to see the bloody sign on our door.
The Deliverer, at this time, also commanded us that every year on this day we should feast and remember that first Passover when we wrote upon our doorpost. And we must tell the story to our children so the event will live in the hearts of generations yet unborn. We've done that eighteen times - eighteen years here in the wilderness. I tell the story to my children every year just as Mama and Papa told it to me so the Egypt memories will live as long as Israel lives.
Ah, but that Passover feast. It was wonderful to eat all I wanted. Papa, like Moses told him, killed a lamb which we shared with the family next door. We had to finish it, too, or else burn up the leavings, said Papa. But strangely we were commanded to eat with our heavy sandals on. And we had to be fully dressed in our traveling clothes, which were fine for hiking, but not comfortable to recline in. And most important, there was no bread. No leavened bread. Only the hard, flat, unfermented cakes; as though Moses knew we would leave suddenly with no time for the bread to rise.
Later that night my mother woke me out of a strong sleep soothed by a stomach full of lamb and corn. And almost a whole glass of wine on top of it all. "Wake up! Wake up!" she shouted. "We must go."
I was still dreaming about my full plate of lamb. I had barely time to grab my straw doll, Keptu, and a sheepskin bag full of clothes.
High on a hill by our village of huts stood our deliverer, Moses, against the starry sky. He leaned on his staff and watched as the people beneath him churned and shouted and finally formed up into a long line of livestock, people, and carts along the road to Succoth.
I was not afraid because my papa told me all about the new life we would live in our own land. G-d had made us a promise. My papa had it straight from Moses. Instead of slavery, instead of carrying stones for the Egyptians, we would tend our flocks. And every family would have a vegetable garden. And a fig tree, too, said our G-d. We would drink the milk of our goats. Every day we would sacrifice and pray to the G-d who had humbled mighty Pharoah. We would bow down to no other gods. That's what my papa said. And he never told a lie, so I was excited. I was not afraid. Eighteen years now I have wandered with my tribe. A daughter of the desert - Bat Hamidbar - they call me, like all of us who grew up here in the wilderness.
Every year at our feast of unleavened bread I remember the bitterness of Egypt. The taste of the flat cakes brings it all back. I remember.
Soon, soon, I know we shall come to our Land of Milk and Honey. I shall see it from a sandy hilltop. Green, like an oasis, it waits for me - or for my children."
Ted Roberts is a nationally syndicated commentator and Jewish humorist. His work
appears in the Jewish Press, as well as in Disney Magazine,
Hadassah, Wall Street Journal, and others. He lives in Huntsville,
from the March Passover 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine