How Pharaoh Tried to Steal the Exodus

A poem by Tucker Lieberman, written after ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’ by Dr. Seuss

Audio

The writer has recorded himself reading this poem aloud. Pull up the SoundCloud audio if you’d like to hear it.

Text

Every Jew stuck in Egypt wanted freedom so bad.
But the Pharaoh who lived in the palace was mad!
Pharaoh was mad at the Passover season.
Please don’t ask why. There are ten morbid reasons.
An eleventh reason was that his crown was too tight.
And maybe his beard wasn’t screwed on quite right.
If you give me some wine and catch me off guard,
I’ll tell you his heart baked a little too hard.

The profile of Tutankhamun’s golden face. The turquoise beard is noticeable. It is like a protruding stick.
The profile of Tutankhamun’s golden face. The turquoise beard is noticeable. It is like a protruding stick.
Image by Maaark from Pixabay

What lifestyle does a hard-hearted man choose?
He ruled over Egypt, enslaving the Jews,
Gazing from his palace with a sour Pharaoh frown
At their poor shtetl hovels on which he clamped down.
And he knew that each Jew in the Jew-ville he ran
Was busy now hatching an exodus plan.
“They’re flattening flour!” he snarled with a sneer.
“Tomorrow they’ll split! They don’t wanna stay here!”
Then he growled as he paced across the landscaping:
“I must stop the Jews from finally escaping!
Tomorrow, I’m sure, all the Jews I can see
Will wake super early. They’ll rush for the sea!”

A small wooden boat resting at shore.
A small wooden boat resting at shore.
Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay

“And then, oh, the noise! Oh, the noise, noise, noise, noise!
Miriam’s tambourine noise, noise, noise, noise!
All the Jews, young and old, will be finally free.
They’ll be free! They’ll be free! They’ll be free, free, free, free!
They’ll belt out Chad Gadya and slam Adir Hu!
They’ll recite Who Knows One? and wham their Dayenu!
They’ll play noisy games like Find the Afikomen
And overturn all the chairs from here to Wyoming!”

Silhouettes of women joyfully dancing in a field.
Silhouettes of women joyfully dancing in a field.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

“The one thing they’ll miss in the desert is leaven.
But they’ll have something better: Manna from heaven!
And they’ll do something I like not one tiny bit.
They’ll come to the table, lickety-split,
And sit with their kosher plates, ready to dine.
They’ll set up their pillows, and then they’ll recline!
They’ll recline! On the chair! Can you believe they would dare?
It’s woefully wrong! It’s not fair! It’s not fair!”

A woman in a fancy dress reclining on a couch.
A woman in a fancy dress reclining on a couch.
A painting by Franz Winterhalter. Image provided by David Mark from Pixabay

The more Pharaoh thought: “They’re mine, I believe!”
The more he resolved: “I can’t let them leave!
Four hundred years they’ve lived in my Jew-ville!
To keep them enslaved, I must be extra cru-el!”

Darth Vader
Darth Vader
Image by p2722754 from Pixabay

“But how?” He got an idea! A villain’s idea!
The Pharaoh got a wonderful, awful idea!
“I know just what to do!” Pharaoh’s plan took shape.
He costumed up in an invisibility cape!
And he chuckled and clapped: “I am pleased to oblige ya:
You can’t see me at all. I look just like Elijah!
Now I’ll get on my horse, and I’ll stop in the road.
I’ll blockade the Jews’ exit from this postal code!”

A hooded shirt. You cannot see the person’s face.
A hooded shirt. You cannot see the person’s face.
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

He went to his stable. But the horse door was loosened.
The Jews, with his horses, had already vamoosened!
Did that stop the Pharaoh? No! He simply said:
“I’ll run after them in my sandals instead.”

Horse stable is empty.
Horse stable is empty.
Image by Lee Ashby from Pixabay

He caught up with the Jews and they didn’t guess
Because he wore that invisibility dress.
“Hello! I’m Elijah!” Pharaoh yelled with a boom.
“Not now, Elijah,” said Moses. “Please read the room.
The Red Sea is parting. It’s time to cross through.
We can’t wait much more than a moment or two.”
“But there’s an emergency,” Pharaoh said, waving a flag.
“Have you double-checked all the supplies in your bag?
One of your candle wicks isn’t bent right.
So, one of your two Yontif candles won’t light.
Give everything to me. I’ll make an assessment.
Elijah can fix it. You’ll like your investment.”

A candle with the flame bending in the wind.
A candle with the flame bending in the wind.
Image by Christian Bigge from Pixabay

“OK, suit yourself.” Moses handed over his sack.
“The Red Sea is parting. We cannot go back.”
“But without your stuff,” argued Pharaoh, “you won’t be free!
Give up your journey, and come back with me!”
“I don’t need the stuff,” Moses said. “None of us do.
The stuff doesn’t determine how I am a Jew.”

Cloth sacks with unknown contents.
Cloth sacks with unknown contents.
Image by David Greenwood-Haigh from Pixabay

Pharaoh got nervous. “I don’t see how you’ll make it.”
Moses explained: “When I haven’t practiced, I fake it.”

Torah scroll, open for reading.
Torah scroll, open for reading.
Image by falco from Pixabay

Pharaoh took the Jews’ candles, charoset, and wine.
He took the Haggadah with the fancy design.
He stuffed their Afikomen into his shirt.
He even took their macaroons for dessert.

Coconut macaroon. Image by Renate Gellings-Reese from Pixabay.

And just then the Red Sea began to look funny.
The blue sky turned purple and rather less sunny.
The fish smacked their tails and the waters went slack.
Moses said, “Goodbye now!” and never looked back.
A path through the Red Sea had cleared for the Jews.
They walked on dry land without wetting their shoes.

The Red Sea is parting.
The Red Sea is parting.
Image by Iforce from Pixabay

Pharaoh was miffed. “They did it! They left!
Despite all my deliberate cultural theft!
They escaped! They are free! Even without their stuff!
My villainous plans just weren’t enough!”
Then, in the distance, far across the Red Sea,
He heard a small noise: “Zee! Zee! Zee! Zee!”
The noise grew louder. Why, it was a tambourine!
The Jews were rejoicing! Pharaoh turned green.

Tambourine.
Tambourine.
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

In his pocket he still had the Afikomen matzah.
He brought it back to his Cairo piazza.
He doffed his magic cape and did a slow blink.
“What did I do wrong? Let me have a think.”
He started to think. He had a small breakthrough.
He made a tentative proposal or two.
“Maybe Passover isn’t inside the Haggadah.
Maybe freedom means doing whatever you gotta.”

A person standing at the edge of the ocean, arms spread, amidst a colorful sunset.
A person standing at the edge of the ocean, arms spread, amidst a colorful sunset.
Image by Public Co from Pixabay

Over the Nile, the air was real foggy.
It started to drizzle. The matzah got soggy.
Then, something beautiful happened without any pain:
The hard heart of Pharaoh got soft in the rain.
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so hard,
He admitted defeat. The Jews had escaped his guard.
He yelled loud so they’d hear him across the Red Sea:
“I give up! You won! Be who you wanna be!”
And the Jews heard him, and they yelled back with glee:
“We’re already being, and we’re already free.”

A hooded person sitting in an orange hammock in the woods.
A hooded person sitting in an orange hammock in the woods.
Image by independentwolf from Pixabay

Written and read by Tucker Lieberman (2021). Modeled after How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss (1957). For more amazements, see: tuckerlieberman.com

Writing on dignity, democracy, and the pursuit of truth. Author: ‘Ten Past Noon: Focus and Fate at Forty’ https://tuckerlieberman.com/ten-past-noon

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