Tuesday April 3, 2012
MAKING MAGID MAGIC: TELLING THE STORY OF PASSOVER
We dance, we play, we make it from a narrow place to an open space, open minds, open hearts.
As a Jewish kiddie rocker, Pesach is one of my busiest seasons! In a typical holiday concert, I use about 30 minutes to fulfill the mitzvah of retelling the story of Pesach while engaging an audience of children (ages 3-10) and adults in a musical, entertaining, educational, interactive and meaningful way.
My telling of the story focuses on four concepts:
1. Mitzrayim, Hebrew for Egypt, means narrow place. The Children of Israel journeyed from the narrowness of captivity to the openness of freedom, echoing the natural cycles of life: winter to spring, old to new.
2. We can imagine ourselves as Moses and hear God’s voice directing us to renew and refresh our hearts.
3. Be brave; take a leap of faith!
4. The first recorded mega dance “partay” happened on the beaches of the Sea of Reeds. Have fun!
*The points are woven together by an engaging narrative, supported by a number of additional fun and educational songs. For a full script on ShirLaLa’s Blog Sameach, click here.
Imagine yourself in a room set up with ample open space, parents and children sitting together, on the floor, so that I can move in and out of the group, and so that we can all boogie (of course). You may be called on to play a role, (I will feed lines and prompt cues, not to worry). Other times, the whole audience will be invited to play roles like animals, trees, wind, and water. I will be strumming the guitar, creating a soundtrack for the story. You will hear musical texture, sound effects and backtrack created by a range of strumming styles from dramatic loud tremolo to light and gentle picking.
Here we go! The journey begins:
1. Transitioning from slavery to freedom: We begin with the storytelling music of Building Cities and Go Down Moses. The songs become the narrative and the audience becomes Israelite slaves. The journey of the story starts with music of slavery and ends with music of rejoicing. Ultimately, the music will transition us out of Mitzrayim, the Narrow Place, into an open space of freedom.
2. “Moses, Moses take off your shoes for this is holy ground.” (Ex. 3:5) (Sung in a beautiful chant, origin unknown.) I bring us to the point in the story when Moses, minding his sheep, spots the burning bush, stares intently, meditates on the flames and finally, “hears” the voice of God. I sing the song a little bit at a time, beginning with just the call, “Moses, Moses.” In my telling, it takes a few times before Moses can respond to God’s voice. This text reminds me Gen. 28:16, “God was in this place and I did not know it.” This is my opening to introduce the idea of sitting, listening with more than our ears, to the still small voice inside us.
3. The Pesach story also revolves around bravery and faith:
- Confronting Pharaoh: the audience role-plays a nervous Moses, barely whispering the song, “Oh Listen King Pharaoh!” We repeat the song, several times, each time increasing our confidence and our volume until we get Pharaoh’s attention and until the 10 plagues do their work.
- Escaping Mitzrayim: We sing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan/Debbie Friedman’s “Hallelu” conveying the conflicting feelings of hope, fear, hurry and ultimately bravery. A Midrash reminds us that leaving was not an easy choice and tells that only 1/5 of the Israelites actually left. The song conveys the tension and drama of making this transition and finally erupts in celebration, sung with energy and enthusiasm.
- Crossing the Sea of Reeds: We are unprepared to cross the water. With great fear in our hearts some of us want to flea, some want to hide, others want to fight the approaching Egyptians (Pseudo Jonathan Aramaic Targum, Ex. 14). And some, according Midrash Mehilta Behsalah 5, in a leap of faith are ready to walk bravely into the water following Nachshon ben Amindadav. Guitar accompaniment dramatizes the magnitude of each step into the water, from our toes up to our nose.
- Parting of the Sea: We burst into song with the second part of “HalleluYAH!” From here I transition directly into Debbie Friedman’s “Miriam’s Song,” altering the lyrics (with Debbie’s permission) to sing “And the children dancing with their timbrels…”
4. It’s essential to have an all-out musical dance party at the end of most stories, especially this one. After “Miriam’s Song”, I sing “Dance Dance Dance,” based on a song by the Imagination Workshop Band, which I’ve adapted into Hebrew. Various niggunim and celebratory singing fill out the party.
We dance, we play, we make it from a narrow place to an open space, open minds, open hearts. Happy Pesach everyone!
In a full-length concert I add in a number of fun and educational songs to enhance the telling of the Pesach story. For a full script on ShirLaLa’s Blog Sameach, click here. For talking points on the story, family activities, printables, and recipes visit ShirLaLa’s Blog Sameach.