Or, a Jew does Jewy things during a Jewy time
You know what’s awesome? Throwing your back out in the middle of a pandemic when you live by yourself and are five feet away from your phone. And by awesome I mean the worst fucking thing ever. After enduring the most painful five foot crawl of my life, nearly blacking out when two masked EMTs had to lift me onto a stretcher, and being pumped full of morphine and dilaudid (shot RIGHT into my ass, thank you very much!), not to mention being brought right into a Covid positive hospital, I realized there was absolutely no way I would be able to take care of myself.
So, I sucked up my pride and called my parents. Quick shout out to my mother, who I nicknamed The Matriarch after Mary of Teck (Elizabeth II’s grandmother) the last time I threw my back out and was high on morphine, and my dad, who, without hesitation, took me and my dog in for a week while I recovered.
Long story short, this emergency turned madhouse (two ultra liberal Jews, one conservative Catholic, one newly rescued chihuahua mix with a Napoléon complex, and one rescued, possessive, Cujo-wannabe mix breed) was difficult but allowed my mom and I to spend a few days of Passover together, including the Zeder (Zoom/Seder, a term I will set on fire if I ever have to use it again) my synagogue hosted and a re-watching of the classic, The Prince of Egypt.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is I watched The Prince of Egypt again, it was awesome, and I’m going to tell you about it.
Based on the Passover story from the Book of Exodus, PoE came to theaters in 1998. The soundtrack was composed by Hans Zimmer, and it featured the voices of Hellen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, Sandra Bullock, Ralph Feinnes, Val Kilmer, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Ralph Feinnes and Michelle Pfeiffer even do their own singing. It has a 7.1/10 on IMDB and an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, which should be a goddamn lie because this movie is a fucking masterpiece. Considering how much I don’t believe in G-d, take their name in vain, and talk up Vikings, that statement should mean something.
One of my favorite things about this movie are the hidden details the movie creators (was it the animators? The producers? The writers? I have no idea) snuck in. They’re not exactly
Passover easter eggs, since they don’t reference other media. But they’re the perfect example of “Show, not Tell” and bring an extra depth to the story. Some are more obvious than others, but each one makes the movie that much more special.
Here’s a list of all of the ones I’ve been able to find.
In the very beginning of the movie, while Seti is chastising Ramses and Moses, you can see the pyramids in the background. This lets the viewer know that the Exodus story takes place well after they’ve been built, and the Hebrew slaves did not, in fact, have a hand in building them like is often repeated.
The real life Ramses II is often labeled as the Ramses in the Exodus story, and he reigned from 1279-1213 BCE, whereas the pyramids were built roughly between 2589 and 2504 BCE, more than a thousand years earlier.
Taken straight from Exodus, when Moses first finds the Burning Bush, it’s clearly dead. Yet as the scene progresses, it starts to flower. By the time Moses is finished speaking with G-d, the bush is in full bloom.
Not a hidden detail, not a
Passover Easter Egg, just a fun inclusion. G-d’s voice is primarily made up of Val Kilmer’s voice, similar to how the Star Child from Mass Effect is voiced by Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer. So Moses is mostly talking to himself whenever he talks to G-d.
Alright, so my mom and I spent a good twenty minutes debating the star pattern in the sky shortly after “Look Through Heaven’s Eyes.” She swore up and down that Orion is there, and I was pretty sure that it was the Big Dipper. I went down the Google hole and figured out that you can actually see Orion in April in Egypt, so I suppose it’s possible the animators included it. It’s also possible it’s a random assembly of stars.
Moses is barefoot when he tells Tzipporah about his encounter with G-d. He was so moved by it that he forgot his shoes.
During the song Playing with the Big Boys, all of the priests’ powers are shown to be simple parlor tricks or sleights of hand. From slaves moving mirrors or dragging screens, it’s obvious that they don’t have any real power. This is particularly obvious when they turn their staves into snakes: a staff is shown, there’s a bright light, and then they hold a serpent. Moses, on the other hand, clearly turns a staff into a cobra. The only explanation behind his trick is divine power. In addition, his cobra eats the priests’ two serpents – a sequence taken directly from Exodus.
Also from the song Playing with the Big Boys, I’m not sure whether to count this or not as I don’t know if this was intentional, but one of the lines of this song is “But first boy, it’s time to bow.” This line is particularly cutting to Jews, because we very specifically do not bow. We’ll sometimes dip our knees or bob our heads, but as part of our whole “no idols” thing, Jews are forbidden to bow.
There’s a quick screenshot where Ramses stands in profile against a backdrop with his father’s statue and behind that, a statue of himself that is significantly bigger. This mirrors an earlier scene in the beginning of the movie where Seti stood in profile against his own statue. The fact that Ramses’ statue is significantly bigger signals just how much he’s overcompensating and trying not to be the “weak link” like his father always warned he would be.
When Moses/G-d turns the Nile to blood, there’s a small patch where Moses stands that remains water. It’s foreshadowing the fact that the Plagues are meant to punish the Egyptians, not the Hebrews.
Quick fun fact about ancient Egyptian men swimming in the Nile: They used to believe that men got their periods. This is because there’s an extremely common parasite in the Nile that makes its home in snails, which like to live inside men’s privates. Once infected, bloody urine is a common side effect. Infection was so endemic that it was basically expected that men would eventually pee blood – thus becoming men.
Throughout the following Plagues, especially Darkness, the Hebrew quarter remains untouched. Again, the Plagues are not meant to harm the Hebrews.
Something interesting to note about smearing blood on the lintels is that Jews view blood to be life, IE a body full of blood is a body full of life. That’s why, in order for meat to be certified kosher, all of the blood needs to be drained. So in order for the spirit of death to pass over the doors of the Hebrews, literal life needs to be painted over the entry. And yes, that’s where the term “Passover” comes from.
As Moses leaves the palace after speaking with Ramses about his dead son, there are four giant statues lining the exit. One of them is crumbled. I’m pretty sure the crumbled one is Moses – his relationship with Ramses is permanently severed.
The song “When You Believe” contains part of the Hebrew Prayer “Mi Chamocha,” which is a song Miriam sang, in Exodus, one the Hebrews left Egypt. She initially sang thanking G-d for destroying the Egyptians, but G-d chided her for praising bloodshed, because the Egyptians were G-d’s people as well. Instead, Miriam then sang Mi Chamocha, which simply praises G-d.
When Ramses shows up with his soldiers at the shores of the Red Sea (it’s actually the Sea of Reeds in Exodus – a mistranslation from the Hebrew), there are a few Egyptians amongst the Hebrews. They’re seen in the following sequences helping Hebrews pass through the waves and making it to the opposite shore. This proves that 1) not all of the Egyptians were assholes – some of them sympathized with the Hebrews and tried to help, and 2) G-d forgave and protected the ones who did.
The whale the Hebrews see in the ocean is actually a shark. I think this is an animation mistake, because the size indicates it’s supposed to be a whale. But the tail points vertically in the film like a shark, while a whale’s goes horizontally.
In the beginning of the movie, Ramses names Moses Royal Chief Architect, and gives him a special ring. When Moses returns to Egypt, he gives the ring back. Throughout the rest of the film, Ramses can be seen wearing it. Even when he’s being thrashed around in the sea, Ramses still wears the ring. Maybe he’s too lazy to take it off, but I don’t think the animators would have gone through the trouble of including this tiny detail if it didn’t matter. I’d like to believe it’s because Ramses still loves Moses, deep down inside. Yes, he’s tormented with rage and hate. But he still clings to that ring, because he’ll never forget the love he felt for his little brother. (And yes, I did carefully freeze frame after frame to confirm this detail. Not easily done on a movie made in the 90s!)
This marks the first time I’ve ever watched the credits all the way through, and it turns out there’s a surprise waiting for anyone who does. Quotes are provided from the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A powerful reminder that we all come from the same roots and believe in the same G-d. In this time of strife and fear, we should hold each other as brother and sister and highlight what we have in common, instead of what sets us apart.
“Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord singled out face to face…” – Hebrew Bible – Deuteronomy 34:10
“[Moses] was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by G-d himself…” – New Testament – Acts 7:35
And call to mind, through this divine writ, Moses. Behold he was a chosen one, and was an apostle [of G-d], a prophet.” – Qur’an-Surah 19:51
Then again, this could also be taken to mean everyone copies us Jews. Nah, let’s go with the brotherly/sisterly love thing.
And that’s it! Thankfully the movie ends before G-d makes the Hebrews wander around the desert for forty years with the intention of killing off anyone who had a hand in the golden calf fiasco and denying Moses the honor of entering the promised land. FYI, Old Testament G-d is a giant dick.
Really, my one complaint about the film is that the only major Jewish name attached to it is Jeff Goldblum, who voices Moses’ brother, Aaron. But seeing as how it’s got Mirren, Stewart, and Feinnes, I still get my fill of excellent acting.
Anyway, I hope this fulfilled some of your Passover munchies as you get bound up by matzah. And for my Christian readers, let me wish you a happy Zombie Jesus Day. Just keep in mind the following things:
- The Last Supper was a Passover Seder
- The Hebrew translation of Jesus’ name is actually Joshua
- Josh was a 30-something Jewish man with a very disappointed mother because he was unmarried and wasn’t a doctor
- The body of Christ he passed around was matzah, so all of the apostles were pretty bound up, too
- Jesus is a lich, not a zombie
And as we Jews like to say at the end of every Seder,
NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!
Or at least not stuck on a couch high on Vicodin, please.
Were you able to find any other surprises in The Prince of Egypt? Do you have any good recipes for Easter brains? Or did you have a really good Zeder? Woops, time to set my laptop on fire.
Let me know in the comments! Or, as usual, hit me up on Twitter @Rhydnara.