Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Passover Story: Mah Myth-tanah

The second of my Passover stories is in the style of Robert Asprin's Myth Adventure series.

The Myth Adventure series is one of the funniest fantasy series ever written. Follow the adventures of Skeeve, Aahz, Tanda, and Gleep, as they traverse around the dimensions learning magic and style.

Humor-wise, it is far more accessible to the American reader than Terry Pratchett's Diskworld series, which just kind of makes me scratch my head. Various children I know learned to read English using these books.

The following story depicts Aaron and Moshe's first meeting, and was written for my then ten year-old boy.

Mah Myth-tanah

The hardest part about being a priest is having to put up with your congregation. This may not strike you as a difficulty, but when your congregation is a large mob of half-naked slaves, working 16 hours a day in the hot Egyptian sun to build a palace for the King of the Egyptians, you find that they don't take too well to sermons about peace, love and brotherhood.

I found that out the hard way. That may explain why I next found myself wandering in a barren desert some 20 miles from aforesaid slaves, who have an amazing amount of strength even after working 16 hours. Enough to thrown a man about twenty feet, I would guess. I really didn't take the time to measure the exact distance, having been more preoccupied with the priestly activity of running away as fast as I could to prevent a repeat of the experiment.

The 20 mile run into the desert was not my actual plan, mind you. It just seemed like a safe bet at the time. I figured that two days was about the distance I needed between myself and my loyal congregation. I told myself that I needed a little time to work on my next sermon. What I needed was a safe place for my bruises to heal.

So there I was, sitting on a small mat in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Concentrate, I told myself. What would make a good sermon? How about a little on the values of hard work? Hmmmm, that didn't sound like it would get any better reception than my love sermon.

While I was sitting there ... um, did I mention that this was the middle of nowhere? That's right, 20 miles from civilized Ramses, with a five mile view in every direction. There was nothing but me and my camel. No place to hide, right. Well, while I was sitting there, I heard a noise to my left and I casually looked. OK, so I jumped. But it was just a tumbleweed. My heart settled back into place. Hey, I was still a little jumpy from the throwing incident, give me a break.

Another noise to my right. I jumped again. This time it the clicking pincers of a tiny scorpion. I was beginning to get thoroughly disgusted with myself. I also realized that I was not going to get any sermons written today. I turned around, to pick up my mat.

"Greetings, Kid," said the tall man standing two feet from my nose. Didn't I mention the tall man standing two feet from nose? That might be because he wasn't there two seconds before, and, as I might have mentioned, I had thought that there was no way that he could have gotten this close to me without my noticing. To my credit, this time I didn't jump. I screamed.

"AHHHHH!!!," I said, determinedly.

"I'm not a doctor, Kid," said the stranger. "I don't need to look down your throat."

"Hhhhuuuhh? Whhhuuuh? Hummmm?" I said, with feeling.

"Some spokesman you sent me," said the stranger, looking up at the sky. He turned back to me and said, "If that's your new sermon, it needs some work. Do you have anything to drink. You had to pick a desert for you to meet me?" Once again, he was looking up at the sky.

It was an ancient custom that you must give a drink to anyone who asks you for one in the desert. "On the camel," I said. The stranger said, "Right. Thanks, Aaron," and wandered over to the camel to get himself a drink.

This gave me a few moments to think. I considered the stranger. He was about six feet tall, with wild grey hair and faded royal clothing. He looked about 50, but I sensed that he was probably older, maybe about my own age of 83. I suddenly realized that he knew my name, and I blurted out, "How do you know my name?"

He was busy rummaging through my belongings, tossing them in several directions while searching for the canteen. "Eh? Oh, God told me you would be here waiting for me. Where is the canteen?"

I looked helplessly as my possessions were scattered left and right. "Hanging from the saddlebags," I said. He looked up. "Ah yes". He took down a canteen and gave it a preemptive sniff. "Water?" he said. "I said something to drink, not something to wash with." He tossed the canteen onto the ground. I did manage to pick it up before most of the water spilled out onto the sand.

"Um, try the small canteen on the bottom," I said, closing the canteen. "And could you please not make such a mess?" "Ah, here we are," he said, ignoring my request and opening the small canteen I had pointed out. He took a long pull from my wine bottle. And another. And another.

"You said something about a God?" I prompted, trying to get to the bottom of my visitor's purpose. "How did you sneak up on me?"

"No, not 'a God'. 'God'," he replied, ignoring my second question.

"That's what I said ... wait, what's the difference?"

"There's only one God, but there are many 'a God's. God is the ruler of everything, kid."

Now I figured it out. He was crazy. Well, it happens to people who wander in the desert sometimes.

"Uh, right," I said. "And this 'God' told you to meet me here?"

"That's right. I have been sent to free the Hebrews in Egypt."

"I thought you said he sent you to meet me."

"First to meet you, and then, together, we go to Egypt."

"But I'm not going to Egypt right now. I just left Egypt. What's your name?"

"Moshe. I used to be a prince in Egypt. Then I left, and I met God, and now I'm going back to free the Hebrews."

"Moshe," I said, ignoring his Hebrews references. As much as I wanted my people to be free, I didn't put much faith in this guy. "There's no prince in Egypt named Moshe."

"Well, I used to be called Moses, but I changed my name to a Hebrew name."

"Moses? He was killed by Pharaoh nearly forty years ago," I said.

"Nope, he's me. And I'm your brother."

"Huh? My brother? I don't have a brother!"

"Yes you do, and he's me. And that's why you're coming with me. To be my spokesman."

"I thought you said you were a prince."

Moshe/Moses lifted his arms to the sky in a semblance of mock penetition. "Why me, Oh Lord?" he said. He gave me a steady look. "Look, I was born Moses, to Yocheved and Amram." I gave a start as he named my parent's names. "I have two older brothers, Aaron, that's you, and Miriam. Our mother, fearing the laws about drowning Jewish babies, put me into a boat on the Nile. Pharaoh's daughter found me and raised me in the palace. One day I killed a slaver who was beating a Hebrew slave, and I fled to the desert. Hmmmm. Your story you heard about my so-called 'death' was probably just a cover up by Pharaoh. Anyway, in the desert, I found a bush that burned but was not consumed, and the one true God told me to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go. I figure that the Hebrews won't go along with this if I go alone. They will think it is some Egyptian plot. So God sent a Hebrew priest, a.k.a. you, to be spokesman for his messenger, a.k.a. me. Got it?"

I nodded my head vigorously up and down. He squinted at me. I shook my head from side to side.

"Kid ... never mind," he said. "Just get your things and let's get going."

"But I told you," I protested. "I wasn't planning on going back to Egypt, yet."

"Do you want to free your people?" he asked. I looked at him, and nodded, helplessly. "Your plans have changed." He stepped onto the camel's footstrap, and hoisted himself up.

"Wait." I said, hastily collecting the objects he discarded during his canteen search and stuffing them into the nearest open saddle bag.

"Where are we going?"

"Aren't your ears working, kid? I told you, we're going to Egypt, to speak to Pharaoh."

"But I don't know Pharaoh. Why would he speak to me?" I hoisted myself up behind him. My position was precarious, and I clung to his robes to keep myself from falling off. He smelled like ashes and sweat. The camel smelled like a camel. Let's just say, you don't need the smell described to you.

"Oh he will. Don't worry about it," he said. Then he grinned, and kicked the camel in the flanks. We were off.

After we had gone some minutes, I said, "Are you really my brother?"

"Seems like it," he replied. I had to strain to catch the words over the grunting that came from both ends of the camel.

I paused, and said, "I've never, that is, I didn't know that I had a brother."

"Yeah, well, let's not get all sentimental about it, kid. We have plans to discuss on the way."

I sighed, and settled down for a long ride.

Yehuda Berlinger

No comments: