This telling of the Exodus story is taken from the text of the 1969 Freedom Seder, originally held to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death. It was written by Abraham Johannes Muste, a Dutch-born American clergyman active in the American workers' rights and civil rights movements.

"Moses lived in a period of dictatorship. His people were slaves. The bosses made them work under a speed-up system, and committed horrible atrocities, such as trying to kill all the boy-babies born to the Jews.

"Moses himself was saved from such a death only because his mother hid him in a reed basket in the Nile River. There he was found by the daughter of the Pharaoh, which is what they called their dictator in Egypt. The princess took Moses to the royal palace and had him brought up as her own son.

"When Moses was a young man he became curious about the Hebrew slaves, and one day went to the brickyards where some of them were working. The first thing he saw was an Egyptian boss hitting a Hebrew laborer. Moses was a powerful young man. He lost his temper. He hit the boss—and killed him! He buried the body hastily in the sand, and went back to the palace.

"But a fire had been kindled in Moses' heart, a fire of concern about his people and their suffering. The next day he went back to the hot brickyards. Then he learned two things that those who try to help their fellow men often discover.

"He found, first, that slaves often spend as much time and energy fighting each other as they do fighting their common oppressors, and second, that slaves do not always welcome their deliverers. They get accustomed to being slaves. Even after they have been freed, if freedom brings hardship, they may want to go back 'to the fleshpots of Egypt.'

"This time Moses found two Hebrews fighting each other. When he rebuked them, they turned on him and said, 'Who made you our boss? Do you mean to kill us as you did that Egyptian yesterday?'

"Moses feared that in order to turn suspicion away from themselves they would tell the Egyptians that he killed the boss. He concluded that it might not be healthy to stay around those parts, so he ran away. [In his new home] he settled down to a nice comfortable life, raising a family and feeding the flocks of his father-in-law.

"Only, after a while, God came into the picture What was the sign that God had come? It was a bush that burned and burned and did not stop burning. Moses had had a fire kindled in his heart once, but it went out, or at least died down. God is the Being whose heart does not stop burning, in whom the flame does not die down.

"What was God all burned up about? The voice that came out of the bush said, 'I have seen the affliction of my people that are in Egypt and have heard their cry by reason of their oppressors.' it was the physical, economic, and spiritual suffering, the injustice, the degradation to which actual people were subjected here on earth, that caused God concern.

"And the proof that God had entered into Moses, and that Moses had really been converted, was that he had to go back and identify himself with his enslaved people— 'organize them into Brickmakers 'Union Number One'—and lead them out of hunger and slavery into freedom and into 'a good land, and a large, a land flowing with milk and honey.'

"At the head of the Ten Commandments stand these great words: 'I am the Lord thy God which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the slave-house. Thou shalt have no other God before me'—before this God who is in the hearts of his prophets as the Eternal Flame that will not let them rest where there is injustice and inequality until these have been done away with and men set about building God's House instead of the slavehouse.

"To be religious, the Hebrews discovered, is to get out of Egypt into Canaan; to refuse to be slaves or contented draft-horses; to build brotherhood in freedom—because that is what men, the children of God, were created to do!

"And religious leaders are those who identify themselves with the oppressed, so that men may carry out this, their true mission in the world."

haggadah Section: -- Exodus Story