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 Post subject: Re: The Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2017 1:19 pm 
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El Cid
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Location: Lincoln, England
Leave Charlton Heston Alone!
(A Response to “Let Charlton Heston Go!”)
Rabbi Steven Morgen, Congregation Beth Yeshurun, April 29, 2016
“So shall it be written, so shall it be done.”
Who can forget this dramatic line uttered by Yul Brynner in Cecil B. DeMille’s wonderful movie The 10 Commandments?
I love that movie which, of course, starred Charlton Heston as Moses. I admit that some of the dialog is corny, the acting is often over the top, and in a number of cases the story does not quite match the Biblical account perfectly. But on the whole, I think it is a brilliant movie, with high production values – especially for its time. The script is written in a beautifully poetic, and adorably archaic style.
But perhaps most importantly, Cecil B. DeMille obviously worked very hard to achieve a movie that captured an archaeologically accurate setting, incorporating details of the story that are found in ancient histories like that of Philo of Alexandria (a Jew living in Hellenized Egypt), Josephus (a Roman-Jewish historian), and the Midrash of our Sages. It is, of course, true that a great deal of the story is filled in with the imagination of the script writer, and other fictional sources. But since the Biblical account of the first hour and a half of the movie consists of only two chapters of the Book of Exodus, that is to be expected.
I say all of this because TORCH, one of our local orthodox organizations that promotes Jewish education, recently redistributed an email they sent out eight years ago that blasted the movie. I didn’t notice whether they had sent this email out in any of the years in between. But since I noticed it again this year, I thought I would update my response to it this evening.
In the email that TORCH distributed, it was claimed that the movie The Ten Commandments was the “greatest culprit” of false information about the “real story of Moses and the Exodus”, causing “a distortion of Judaism of Biblical proportions.” Moreover, the writer suggests, “Cecil B. DeMille apparently never consulted the bible before making the movie!” I think this is truly an unfair assessment. Perhaps even a distortion of Biblical proportions itself.
Before I go any further, I should say that I agree with the ultimate message of TORCH’s email: It is a shame that so many Jews don’t read the Bible for themselves, let alone the classical commentaries of our Sages found in the Midrash, and other sources. We are “The People of the Book,” after all. And that is our Book. And I also agree that there are some things the movie got wrong. But there is so much more that the movie got right.
The email essentially complains of two things about the movie:
First, it says that according to the Torah all of the Israelites heard the giving of the Torah. It was not just Moses on Mount Sinai, as depicted in the movie.
Second, Moses did not say “Let my people go!” He said, “Let my people go that they might serve Me.” (Exodus 7:16) [Also 5:1, 7:26, 9:1, etc.]
With respect to the first point, the Torah most definitely does NOT say that all of the Israelites heard the Torah at Mount Sinai. At most, all they heard was the 10 Commandments according to the Torah. But according to at least one rabbinic reading of that passage, all they actually heard were the first two commandments: “I am God. Have no other Gods.” That is when they said to Moses, “this is too scary for us. We’ll die if we hear any more. You go up the Mountain and get the rest, and come back and tell us what God says. We’ll do whatever God instructs us to do.” But it is an important point that the Israelites did indeed hear/see at least the first two commandments themselves.
Later, according to the Torah, Moses does go up on the Mountain alone for quite some time while the Children of Israel built the Golden Calf. And he does come down the mountain with the Tablets (Ex. 31:18), and he does smash them. And this is what is portrayed in the movie. [See Ex. 24:1 where Moses is summoned up the mountain alone. Mishpatim laws are given to Israelites by Moses – not directly from God.]
Now let’s turn to the second complaint. Moses did indeed demand that the Pharaoh let the Israelites go out to the wilderness so that they could serve God. While DeMille chose not to include this last bit – that they were to leave Egypt in order to serve God – he elsewhere makes it quite clear that not only the Israelites are to serve God, but also Pharaoh is to “bow to God’s will.” Remember that wonderfully pithy and poetic statement of defeat by Ramses as he tosses his sword to the ground: His god, IS God!
Again, I completely agree with TORCH’s argument that Freedom without the Commandments (serving God) betrays the essence of Judaism. But I hardly think the movie erases God’s undisputed role as Ruler of the Universe and Author of the Commandments. Just the opposite. It dramatizes God’s supremacy. Over and over again Moses admits that he is just a man, and that God is the source of Power and Authority. For instance: Moses says to Pharaoh: it would take more than a man to free the slaves from bondage. It would take a God. But if I could free them, I would.” And later he says: “What I have done I was compelled to do.” (Spoken like true prophet.)
Meanwhile, the TORCH email makes a BIG mistake itself: we did NOT build the pyramids! This is a very commonly made error. One that the movie did NOT make.
And the movie makes some truly wonderful, moral and religious points, and it incorporates not only biblical elements of the story, but also many, many elements found in Jewish commentary on the Torah, called the Midrash. Here are 13 examples:
On numerous occasions, the script quotes virtually verbatim from the Torah. Far from not having read the book, as TORCH suggests, DeMille (or his writers) quite often borrowed directly from the text.
Pharaoh gives a scientific explanation for the Nile turning red, frogs, lice and disease. Ignores the miraculous nature of the plagues. This is a brilliant modern-day explanation or midrash for why the Pharaoh ignored the destruction the plagues heaped upon his Kingdom. He chose not to see it as God’s will.
Pharaoh is portrayed as an atheist himself, complaining to his priests that they just invented the Egyptian gods to pray upon the fears and superstitions of the people. It was not until after his defeat at Red Sea, that he returns to Egypt and throws down his sword and declares, “Moses’ God, IS God!” I think that is a wonderful interpretation of Pharaoh’s stubbornness: he was an atheist who finally concedes to God’s power.
At the outset the movie talks about how God has given Humans free will, and some choose to do evil, to enslave and to oppress others. That is a very Jewish understanding of why there is evil in the world. Because we humans choose to do bad things to ourselves and to others.
In the movie, the Egyptian astrologers foretell the birth of a redeemer. That is the reason for killing new born Israelite boys. That is not in the Torah. It is from Midrash – which Cecil B. De Mille acknowledges as a source in the movie’s credits.
Moses is not given a name until Pharaoh’s daughter gives him one (this is in the Bible). Her name is Batya (this is from Midrash). The Torah does not name the Pharaoh’s daughter. In fact, the Midrash gives her the name Batya (Bithia) because there is a Pharaoh’s daughter named Bithia in I Chronicles 4:18. Although it is not likely that that Pharaoh’s daughter is the same one as the Exodus, the Midrash says she is indeed one and the same person. And, in Chronicles, it seems that Bithia is married to a man named Mered. (She converted to Judaism according to the Midrash.) Guess what? In the movie, on the night of the Passover, Bithia comes to Moses’ tent for protection against the plague of Death. And Moses asks a man named Mered to bring her a chair to sit on. Cecil B. DE Mille knew his Midrash!
In the movie, the Hebrews are building the store cities of Pithom and Ramses, not the pyramids as so many people mistakenly believe.
Dathan (played by Edward G. Robinson in the movie) is a “capo” in Egypt. He betrays Moses to Pharaoh. He also tries to get the Israelites to return to Egypt when they are trapped at the Sea of Reeds. (All this is in the Midrash, not the Torah.)
Moses gives the Israelites one day off in seven while he is overseeing their work as slaves. (This is in Midrash.)
Moses goes to work as a slave alongside the Israelites. (This is in Midrash)
The Israelites recite psalms at night of seder: Don’t fear the terror by night, or the arrow that flies by day, etc. (Psalm 91:5) Kids ask the four questions: why is this night different from all other nights? Why do we eat bitter herbs and matzah? These are very clever Jewishly inspired tidbits in the dialog.
The Israelites carry the bones of Joseph with them as they leave Egypt, and it appears that Joseph’s body is embalmed. (These details are in the Bible itself.)
De Mille even used ancient Hebrew script in inscribing the tablets of the 10 Commandments. The Hebrew alphabet letters were changed in the Babylonian Exile. Those new letters are the ones we use today. But not the ones that would have been used in Moses’ time. De Mille had the props artist use the ancient Hebrew letters. You have to give him a lot of credit for that!
I agree with the ultimate point that TORCH wanted to make: we should go back and read the Book itself. But rather than complain about a couple of perceived errors in a wonderful movie, I would suggest that we should use the movie as an inspiration to explore all the wonderful Jewish texts that make up our precious heritage. (In fact, I hope you’ll go home tonight and read the story of the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea in your own Bible.)
The movie ends with the famous verse from Leviticus found on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof.” And then the movie adds “So it shall be written, so it shall be done.” For all of Pharaoh’s pronouncements of this type, the Commandments – God’s Commandments are the last to receive this verdict in the movie.


Here is the article to which the one above responded to -

Jewish World Review April 15, 2008 / 10 Nissan 5768
Let Charlton Heston Go!
By Rabbi Dovid Zauderer

The famed, respected actor has fulfilled his mission on Earth. Now it's time for those who consider the Bible to be more than a story book to reclaim it

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com |
There is so much misinformation, distortion and just plain ignorance out there today when it comes to Jews and their knowledge of Judaism and the Torah.

Of course, one of the main reasons for this sad state of affairs is that most young Jews today are simply not getting a solid Jewish education. And this is true even in Israel, where you would think that they would at least know the basics — living as they do in the Holy Land.

A former Israeli Minister of Education once went in to a public school in Tel Aviv to test the students' knowledge of the Bible. He asked one girl, "Do you know the Aseret Hadibrot [the Ten Commandments]?" To which the girl responded, "Sorry, but I never saw that seret (she thought he was asking about a seret, the Hebrew word for movie)". Pretty sad, eh?

But I think that another major factor is contributing to the abysmal ignorance of an entire generation of young Jews. Many of them (and many of us) are getting a Jewish education — only that they are getting it in distorted form from Hollywood and the media.

I speak from first-hand experience.

Last year I was teaching a class on campus and made reference to the Mormons. Three students called in out in unison, "Oh yeah, I know the Mormons ... I saw that South Park episode ... " Is watching South Park how the next generation is getting informed about world religions?

And how many Jews now consider themselves experts in the very complex field of Jewish medical ethics because they saw a ridiculous Grey's Anatomy episode about the religious girl who refused a pig valve transplant because it's not kosher???

Now, this is not to say that there aren't serious students of religion. Of course there are. But there's no doubt that the masses are being impacted negatively — if unknowingly — by these distorted depictions.

Probably the greatest culprit of all — which has caused a distortion of Judaism of Biblical proportions — is the 1956 film The Ten Commandments directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Charlton Heston (may he rest in peace) as Moses and Yul Brynner as Pharaoh. I would think it's safe to say that most Jews' primary knowledge of the Exodus from Egypt and the Receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai comes from that movie.

Which is kind of tragic — especially since Cecil B. DeMille apparently never consulted the Bible before making the movie!

Ask most Jews today, "Who did G-d give the Torah to at Mount Sinai?" They will likely reply, "G-d gave the Torah to Moses." "And what were the Jewish people doing while Moses was receiving the Torah?" ... ... "Worshipping the Golden Calf." That may be how it happened in the movie — but the version found in the Torah is quite different.

The Torah's claim is that the entire people heard G-d speak at Mount Sinai, experiencing national revelation. G-d did not just appear to Moses in a private rendezvous; He appeared to everyone, some 3 million people.

And this seemingly small piece of "misinformation" about what the Bible really says has some really huge ramifications.

Another major mistake most Jews make about the Exodus — and for which we have to thank Director DeMille — is that we think Moses said to Pharaoh in the name of G-d "Let My people go!" After all, that is what Charlton Heston said to Yul Brynner in the movie. But it is not what the original Moses said to the original Pharaoh way back in ancient Egypt! Rather, he said "Let My people go ... so that they may serve Me" (see Exodus 7:16)

"So that they may serve Me" ??? Did I catch that correctly, Rabbi? Do you mean to tell me that according to the Book version the freedom that the Jews enjoyed during the Exodus — and about which we celebrate till this very day on the holiday of Passover — wasn't merely freedom from slavery and building pyramids but was actually the freedom to go and serve G-d and spiritually grow through the 613 commandments that He gave us 49 days later at the foot of Mount Sinai??? No one ever taught me that in Hebrew School!!!

You see my point with all this, I hope. Clearly, if we are to educate ourselves and our kids about Torah and Judaism, the movies are simply not the best way to do it. We need to go to the source to find out what freedom really is — and isn't.

Passover is a few days away. It celebrates liberation and freedom. So it's a good time for all of us to let Charlton Heston go ... to liberate ourselves from the media-driven distortions and self-imposed ignorance that shackle us down and limit us as Jews — and to start learning about our beautiful history and religion in a more sophisticated and informed manner.

This way, we will raise a generation of proud, educated Jews — something we need now more than ever.


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 Post subject: Re: The Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 1:02 pm 
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El Cid
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Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 6:11 pm
Posts: 1137
Location: Lincoln, England
I saw just this wonderful story in today's "Sun" newspaper. On 24 March 1956, Mavis Smith was on a date at THE TEN COMMANDMENTS movie and found a three-week old abandoned baby in the toilet. Read how this story ends here-

https://www.thesun.co.uk/living/3560428 ... na-expert/

I wonder if Robert Weston identifies with Heston as Moses?


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