An Israelite Caravan, c. 1886 BCE. A Hot, Dry, Dusty Day in the Sinai, descending from Canaan to Egypt. Men shouting directions and ignoring one another, Women comforting their Children, a Solid Mass of Cattle—goats, sheep, donkeys, cows, camels—all united in a loud cacophony of animal-cries rising up to Heaven. In the midst of the Tumult, Two Small Boys are walking, holding short sticks, and trying to guide an Elderly She-Donkey, named Duvdevan (Hebrew, “Cherry”), which is mostly ignoring them. They are cousins Yoni ben Pallu and Dov ben Zerach, of the Tribes of Reuven and Judah, respectively. Yoni is ten; Dov is eight.
Yoni: Move, Duvdevan! You’re slowing us down. We will have to stay back in Canaan, for sure, and never get to see Egypt. Move along, or I will use my mighty donkey-whip on your bony backside, see if I don’t!
(He waves his little branch menacingly in the Donkey’s face. The Donkey brays, tosses its head, and pays no attention.)
Dov: Yoni, will we see the Pyramids? Granny says that they are built of mud-brick, and reach from the Earth to the Sky, all the way up to where the Great God Elohim has placed the planet-wanderers in the Rakiah, the Firmament. Is that so?
Yoni (uncertain): Granny tells a lot of stories. Is this your Granny or mine?
Dov: I don’t know; I’m not sure; there are so many Grannies….
(The Donkey begins to veer off the path, and Both Boys scramble to grab its rope-harness, and pull its tail back, lest it barrel into the cows before it.)
Yoni: Poor Old Duvdevan! She’s almost blind, you know.
Dov: Is that why Poppa gave her to you?
Yoni: I suppose so; Poppa won’t let me have a dog; he says they’re unclean. (The Two scuffle along in the dust, for a few steps)
Dov: I hear that there are Giant Statues in Egypt, too. And Cousin Joseph is the King’s Special Assistant.
Yoni: What’s a Statue?
Dov: I don’t know. Are we to live in Egypt forever?
Yoni: Last night, after you went to bed with the other babies, Grandpa Reuven let me stay up. He took me to Great-Grandpa Jacob’s tent. He is old—so old! He made—that is, whispered—a speech, and Reuven repeated it after him, in a loud voice. Great-Granny Leah and Aunty Zilpah were moving their lips—I suppose they were remembering it; my Papa said they are the Rememberers for all of us, and will pass the Story down, so it’s never forgotten.
Dov: What was the Story, Yoni? Pass it down to me!
Yoni (frowning): Have I forgotten it? No. Great-Grandpa said something like, ‘All of us, My Children, will leave tomorrow. I must go down and see my son, Joseph, before I die.’ And he clenched his fists and moved his hands in the air, as if he were arguing with Someone, only there was No One there. And then, he said, ‘I will not fear to go down to Egypt, for Elohim, the Judgment-God, the God who has forever brought me down and up throughout my life, who has blessed me with my many sons, especially my beloved Joseph and Benjamin, the sons of my heart’s-chosen-one Rachel, God rest her soul!—will make my great-grandsons and their children into a Great Nation, and will bring them out of Egypt with a Mighty Hand and an Outstretched Arm.” And then, he began to cough, suddenly, and Leah and Zilpah laid him back on his sleeping-mat, and Papa carried me out; I was so tired….
Dov: Does the Judgment-God Elohim have hands and arms? Where can I see Him?
Yoni: You can’t see Him, Little Fool! The Great Elohim lives in the Mountains of Moab, beyond the Sea of Salt. That’s what Great-Uncle Levi told me. Uncle Levi knows a lot; he has the Sacred Scrolls.
Dov (thoughtfully): If Egypt is so wonderful, I will never leave; I will build a great house, as big as King Pharaoh Senostris’s Palace, and live there forever.
Yoni (patronizingly): Says you. But Grampy Jacob said that the Great God Elohim told him there will be a day when we must leave. Egypt will not be our Home forever.
Dov: How can you live in a Place and it not be your Home?
Yoni: A Home is—a Home is—where it belongs to you, not to Someone Else. A Home is where you look around, and all the tents belong to you; the people are either relatives or close neighbors, and you all speak the same language. No one can come into your home and force you to do something you don’t want to do. That’s not the Main Idea of a Home, but that’s an Important Part. Canaan will always be our home, and Egypt will never be—not entirely. It’s so hard to explain to you, Dovvy!
Dov: But the Egyptians will be nice to us. Uncle Joseph has promised it, and he is the Second Most Powerful Man in Egypt. Why would that ever change?
Yoni: I don’t know—but don’t forget what Great-Grandpa Jacob said: “I will take you out,” says the Great God Elohim.
Dov: I just don’t understand—Watch out, Duvdevan! (The Boys chase the Donkey, as it shambles off)