By Deborah Fineblum, JNS—
Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers?
If you were one of the 32 souls who traveled with Rabbi Dr. Joshua Berman to Egypt in January, it’s the fact that you can’t read the Haggadah the same way this year. Because what you saw and heard there downloaded brand-new, three-dimensional multi-sensory images into your mind.
“I’ll never read the Exodus story the same way again,” says Harold Berman of Efrat (no relation to the rabbi), who had become intrigued by his theories and insights after interviewing him for his syndicated radio show, “The Teacher and the Preacher.”
“But being there is what makes the theories come alive—touching the kind of mud brick storehouse built by slaves with the straw still sticking out, perfectly preserved since there’s no rain, really makes you think of Exodus when Pharaoh told Moses and Aaron, ‘We’re not providing straw anymore. Your people will have to find it themselves, but they’ll still have to produce the same quota of bricks.”
Joshua Berman’s full-time job is professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University, but when not teaching the intricacies of Jewish law, the New York native regularly travels 3,300 years back in time to retrace the Jewish people’s steps in—and flight from—Egypt.
And he’s attempting something many historians just can’t fathom: connecting the dots between the Divine nature of the Torah and the historical record with its ongoing archeological discoveries.
Because for Rabbi Berman, there is no conflict; the two dovetail perfectly.
This worldview filled the 10-day journey, under the aegis of Kesher Tours, as the first-ever Bible-themed kosher tour of Egypt since our ancestors schlepped sacks of unrisen dough during their midnight escape to freedom.
One iconic image captures it: a minyan of kipah-wearing Jews reciting afternoon prayers before the pyramids, the universal symbol of the civilization that enslaved the ancient Israelites. Continue Reading…