Easter and Passover, Once Upon a Time

Copyright 1998, Rev. Elizabeth A. Lerner
Author's permission granted for use or reproduction.

Note: This is a simple pageant/presentation, requiring few props and rehearsals, intended for intergenerational Sunday worship on a week when Easter and Passover occur very close together or simultaneously, reflecting the time-frame in the Bible accounts. Staging is loose and may be changed or amplified. Underlined read text is action meant to occur as the narrator reads. The Passover pageant, part 2 of the presentation, can also stand alone for a Sunday devoted to that holiday.

The presentation may begin with the Minister or DRE: asking the children of the congregation questions re: Jesus: who was he, what was his message, how did he communicate his message, what happened to him, what do Christian's believe happened after he died, take a moment of silence to imagine how difficult it must have been for all the people who loved and followed him to see him die in such a painful way.

Pageant, Part 1

Cast list:

Easter, Scene 1

A bunch of girls, seated in pairs, braiding each other's hair.

Rivka (the oldest, braiding Hepzibah's hair): Well, this is a Passover we will never forget, isn't it sisters?

Hepzibah (next oldest): These have been terrible days, I always used to love Passover: singing Dayeinu as we walked to the trip to the temple, having the feast together, hearing the Exodus story, but now I don't think I can ever enjoy it again.

Elisheba (a young sister): Why was Jesus crucified? Why did the Romans want to do that to him?

Rachel (another young sister): Why did he have to come to Jerusalem for Pesach anyway?

Sarah (a middle sister): And why couldn't we all do something to save him?

Rivka: It's a new set of four questions this Passover

Hepzibah: No, there's more: what will we do without him? Is everyone going to forget him now that he's gone?

Rivka: I think that's up to us; people won't forget him or his message if we remember what he was like, what he said and did, not if we remind each other and tell our children. We were lucky, we actually met him. We heard him preach on the Mount of Olives. And we saw his suffering over the past few days. All that should make it easy to remember him well. If we keep his memory alive, maybe people will still know about him and how special he was many years from now. I heard Sholem is beginning to write out all the things he can remember Jesus said so that we will have something else to remind people of him, maybe even after we're gone.

Elisheba: But why was he crucified?

Hepzibah: Elisheba, some people didn't agree with Jesus' message. You've seen people arguing about it many times - and remember the time we saw him making everyone upset outside the temple, near the moneylenders? Some of the Pharisees really disagreed with him. He was a good man, he did wonderful things for many of us, but sometimes even special, wonderful people are not loved by everyone. And the Romans saw that enough of us Jews did love him, felt a new hope we'd never known before. I think they were afraid he was becoming too strong, that he could threaten their rule over us. They don't care about blood on their hands, no matter whose, even a holy leader.

Rachel: By why did he have to come here - with a parade - where the Romans are so strong?

Rivka: Everyone comes here, Rachel. Passover is one of our most important holidays and everyone wants to be at the high temple for it. If we didn't already live by Jerusalem, we would come here too for holidays, as often as we could. Jesus was a holy man, he deserved to be here more than most.

Sarah: Why didn't we save him? There are more of us than there are Romans!

Rivka: Yes, Sarah, but they have all the weapons - they swords, armor, horses, more than anyone can count, the largest army the world has ever seen - we in Judea have already learned we cannot win against them, not even here in our own capital. Even here in the promised land, we suffer as our ancestors did in Egypt.

Hepzibah: I think this is the first Passover that I have truly understood what it is to feel helpless, for your life. This must be like what our forebears felt as slaves in Pharoah's kingdom - the pain of despair, they can do anything they want to us, today I know it like I never did before.

Rivka: How ironic that Passover is our celebration of freedom.

Hepzibah: (unheeding) At least the ancient Hebrews had Moses to lead them safely out to freedom, to care for them for forty years! All we can do is what they did for Moses: preserve Jesus for as long as we can - to speak of him, to live according to the ways he taught, to honor his message as though he were still among us...

(enter Judith, a middle sister, running and gasping)

Rivka: Judith!

Hepzibah: What is it?

Judith: Rivka, Hepzibah, sisters! You won't believe it! I was up in the city, the story is everywhere...Jesus is alive!

Sisters: What?!?! (then, many together, jumbled:) It's not possible, it can't be, it's a miracle, etc.

Judith: No, it's true, Miriam has seen him and some of the apostles!

Rivka: Mariam his mother?

Hebzibah: No, the Magdalen, his disciple!

Judith: I thought they meant his mother - I don't know, everyone was just saying Mariam! But also the apostles saw him!

Rivka: Which apostles?

Judith: I don't know Rivka, I didn't ask! Does it matter? He's alive, risen from sure death! It's another miracle!

Rivka: Of course it matters, how do you know it's true? We all saw him on the cross. Can you ever forget it?

Hepzibah: Rivka, he's done miracles before, no one could believe possible. Why couldn't he, or Hashem, Lord God above, do this one? He isn't lost to us! Where is he, Judith?

Judith: I don't know - people say he was in the city, and on the road, I don't know now where he is.

Hepzibah: Let's go to the city and find him, it is another Passover miracle, after more than 1,000 years God has saved us again! Come on sisters!

(sisters, save Rivka who holds Judith back by the sleeve, run off with Hepzibah)

Rivka: Judith, who told you this news?

Judith: I don't know, someone in the street, everyone was talking of it, and rushing around. Let's go find Jesus! Come on!

Rivka: I will do this Judith. I will go with you to look for him.

Exit Rivka and Judith

Pageant Part 2: Passover

(The songs in this portion are numbered out of the hymnal Singing the Living Tradition, and are meant for the congregation to sing together, while any action occurring in the play is "frozen." This helps keep the congregants, especially children who aren't in the pageant, engaged.)


Regardless of how wise we are, or how old we are, or how well we know the story, it is still a Mitzvah, a duty, to tell and retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. And the more we discuss it, the better we will understand how terrible it is to be a slave and how wonderful it is to be free.

Narrator #1:
The story of the Jewish people in Egypt begins with Joseph. When Joseph succeeded in interpreting Pharaoh's dreams, Pharaoh rewarded him by appointing him regent over the land. In that position, Joseph helped Egypt to survive during the years of hunger which he had predicted would come. In fact, Joseph served Egypt so well that all the neighboring countries had to buy food from Egypt when the Famine came.

Narrator #2:
The hunger in Eretz Yisrael also brought Jacob and his family to Egypt. They were seventy people in all. As time went by, they grew in number until it seemed that they were everywhere.

Narrator #1:
After Joseph died, a new Pharaoh arose. He disregarded the great contribution which Joseph had made to Egypt.

Pharaoh: (addressing congregation)
"Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land."

Narrator #1: (tableau)
The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. Then Pharoah commanded all his people:

Pharoah #2:
"Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live."

Narrator #2:
One such baby boy was saved from the King's evil decree by his mother's courage and love. She was a Levite woman, who hid him for three months and when she could hide him to longer, she got a papyrus basket for him, plastered it with bitumen and pitch, and placed it among the reeds at the bank of the Nile. The child was Moses. Coming to bathe in the river, Pharoah's daughter found the child, and knowing him for a Hebrew, called Moses' mother to nurse and raise him. When he was grown, Pharoah's daughter adopted him as her son and named him Moses, which from the Egyptian 'to beget a child'. She brought him to the palace where he could have lived peacefully and happily, enjoying the wealth, the protection and the excitement.

Narrator #1:
But Moses saw the suffering of the Israelite slaves and he felt pain in his heart for them. One day when he saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating an Israelite slave, Moses could not control his anger. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. But Pharoah heard of it and sought to kill Moses. Moses now had to run away from Egypt. He fled to Midian where he became a shepherd and married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro, the priest of Midian.

Narrator #2:
After a long time, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Their cry rose up to God and God heard them. And one day in Midian, while Moses was looking after his sheep, he heard the voice of God calling to him from a bush.

Moses, Moses!

"Here I am.

"I am the god of your people, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob"

(Moses hides his face in fear.)

"I have surely seen the suffering of My people in Egypt and I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. So I have come to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and large land, a land flowing with milk and honey...Therefore come now and I will send you to Pharoah that you may bring forth My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."


Narrator #1: (tableau)
Despite Moses' plea and threat of God's punishment, Pharoah stubbornly refused to free the Israelite slaves. One plague after another was brought upon the Egyptians.

Dam: Water became Blood.
Tzfardeyah: Frogs,
Kinim : Lice,
Arov: Wild Beasts,
Dever: Blight,
Sh'hin: Boils,
Barad: Hail,
Arbeh: Locusts,
Hosheh: Darkness.

Narrator #2: (tableau)
After each one Pharoah would promise to obey God's command. But as soon as the plague had passed and relief came, Pharoah changed his mind. Only after the tenth and most horrible plague...

Makat B'horot: the death of the first born

Narrator #2:
...did Pharoah finally agree to let the Israelites go.

Narrator #1:
The Egyptians urged the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said "We shall all be dead". So the Israelites took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, to lead them and light them along their way.


Narrator #2:
When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharoah and his officials changed.

"What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?

Narrator #2:
So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. As Pharoah drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. The pillar of cloud came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the Red Sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind and turned the sea into dry land and the waters were divided.


Narrator #2:
The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground and the walls were water. The Egyptians pursued and went into the sea after them. Moses stretched out his hand ove the sea. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea, but the Israelites walked on dry ground.

Narrator #1:
Thus the Lord saved Israel. The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred thirty years. At the end of four hundred thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. The story of the plagues and the exodus contains a reminder and a warning to all nations. When they oppress any of their people, when they show no concern for human beings, when they do not care about human suffering, they are preparing for destruction. A nation which wants to grow and prosper must grant "liberty and justice for all." The Torah commands: proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.

DAYEINU (available in most Passover haggadahs)

Passover Part 2 Cast List:
Narrator #1:
Narrator #2:
Pharoah #2:
Moses' mom:
Pharoah's daughter:
Plagues - Hebrew:
Plagues - English:

Props List:
Plague Representations
Red Sea
Pillar of cloud
Pillar of fire

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