It’s Presidents’ Day in America! Fun fact: The proposed first seal of The United States showed Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt with the text: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”
Were our founding fathers really like Moses when they declared independence from British rule? Our experience as Haggadah-fanatics has shown us that making historical comparisons between Moses and other leaders can sometimes be either too simplistic or too complicated. But we’re going to keep trying anyway!
Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence announcing the American people’s freedom from British oppression. How can we compare him to Moses, when Jefferson, even though he was theoretically opposed to slavery, still owned hundreds of slaves? Well, in the Passover story we are told that the generation that escaped Egypt couldn’t be the generation that entered the Holy Land. So Moses and his generation had to wander in the desert for 40 years and die out before the Jewish people could enter Israel. Similarly, Jefferson’s generation wasn’t the one to free the slaves, it would have to take a later generation and another President, Abraham Lincoln, to take the next step in the evolution of the country.
Even today, we may look back at Lincoln’s generation’s treatment of female voters as failing to be heroic enough. But we may also remember that Moses impulsively broke the Ten Commandment tablets that God gave him. What does the Torah teach us that our ancestors weren’t perfect people? Are we asking too much of our leaders now with progressive purity tests? Or are we making heroes out of people who don’t deserve to be memorialized, when there are so many other stories of heroic leadership to celebrate? Who else should we have holidays to celebrate besides Presidents?
Haggadot.com has many clips that analogize the Jews’ struggle for freedom from Egypt to other peoples’. Now is the time to check out “A Haggadah for Justice”, our library of Social Justice themed clips, or create YOUR own! That’s what Jewish President Moses would want too ;)