Hollywood’s Passover movies – the Book is still better

We never get that part in the movies, of Jewish devotion to purity and decency.

Jack Engelhard,

Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

Now’s the season for all those religious and biblical epics to be coming out on TV and so far as how the Hebrews get depicted, the movies never get it right. 

For us, there’s DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” which for me has always been entertaining but never kosher for Passover.

But I’ll be watching it again, if only for the splitting of the sea and other special effects…plus Elmer Bernstein’s magnificent musical score.

Which never accompanied us when as slaves we left Egypt for real.

All together we Jews do not have too many biblical epics made in Hollywood. After DeMille there were some, but to find how the Hebrews were really portrayed biblically or post-biblically, we leave Egypt and get to Rome, and here we get the full picture – and it ain’t pretty.

The Hebrews are ALWAYS presented (wrongly) as an unwashed ragtag motley crew. Back to DeMille, where were his technical advisers? The Hebrews are shown leaving Egypt as a rabble of slaves marching drearily through the wilderness en route to the Promised Land without taking a bath for 40 years.

The Egyptians are pictured tall dark and handsome – and yet they prayed to sticks, stones and crocodiles….hardly conducive to proper hygiene, or flossing. 

Same deal in Rome, if not exactly. But they’ve all got it backwards. 

As I watch these movies I keep thinking that it was the Hebrews who were dedicated through God and Moses to be “a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation”…that the laws of purity and cleanliness were given to them in the Book of Leviticus…that no man or woman dared approach the foot of Mount Sinai for the Revelation before washing up…and so far as the priests, they could not enter the Sanctuary with the slightest blemish.

Where were the technical advisers to set the record straight? It was the Hebrews who were debonair.

I get it that upon first leaving Egypt we tended to be unkempt.

The Land was promised and given to the Jews – but not on a sliver platter. They were meant to fight for it...as it is today...
But after that…after that we were an army…God’s army. We did not march as an unruly mob. We marched to the tempo of military precision.

In the middle was the Tent of Meeting, surrounded by the tribes, each hoisting its particular banner, and so they journeyed, sharp, in-step and disciplined.

The women adhered to their modesty and tended to their beauty. Their mirrors, which Moses thought as too wasteful and trivial, God Himself blessed as his legions -- as through their grooming the women remained adorable to their husbands, and thus desirable in order to be fruitful and multiply.

Of the Jewish encampments in the Wilderness, the heathen prophet Balaam could not help but exclaim – “How goodly thy tents O Jacob, thy dwelling places O Israel.”

We never get that part in the movies, of Jewish devotion to purity and decency, or what it was like when Moses, and Joshua, went off to war. 

That was no picnic – those 40 years on the road. There was always some king who declared his territory as a no-go zone as the Hebrews pushed forward toward their destiny. Nothing doing, except warfare, even after Moses promised that not a blade of grass would be touched at the crossing.

The Land was promised and given to the Jews – but not on a sliver platter. They were meant to fight for it, and as it is today, so it was in biblical times.

So after the shofar sounded, the men arranged themselves in groupings so precise you’d think it was Napoleon’s Grand Army.

I read somewhere that Napoleon modeled some of his own tactics from these Hebrews in the Wilderness, who went to war, following Moses, by Divisions, by Regiments, by Battalions, by Companies, by Platoons and by Squads, according to tribe and standard.

None of that shows up in any movie. So there’s no choice but to read the Book.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva. His books, including “The Bathsheba Deadline,” are available from Amazon and other retailers. Engelhard wrote the international bestseller “Indecent Proposal” and the award-winning Montreal memoir “Escape from Mount Moriah.” His latest is “News Anchor Sweetheart.” He is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: www.jackengelhard.com