Novel PASTimes: Thank you for joining us today. Would you begin by telling us how to pronounce your name?
JOCHEBED: My people pronounce it yo-KEHV-edh although many people say jok-uh-bed.
Novel PASTimes: Do you have a preference?
JOCHEBED: Not as long as it is said with kindness.
Novel PASTimes: Tell me about yourself.
JOCHEBED: I’m an ordinary Hebrew slave. Why are we doing this interview? Am I in trouble with the overseers? Are you a spy? Will my words be reported to Pharaoh? My back is already scarred from the times I haven’t made my weaving quota.
Novel PASTimes: You are in no danger, but you are not ‘ordinary’. You are considered a remarkable woman.
JOCHEBED: I can’t imagine why. I’m just a basket weaver although my mother taught me the secrets to perfect waterproofing.
Novel PASTimes: And…
JOCHEBED: And I’m a mother—three children though only two know me. My youngest boy, Moses, has lived at Pharaoh’s palace since he was weaned. I-I never see him except from afar but I’m grateful he lives. When he was still with me, I’d whisper the stories and songs of our G-d into his little ears and pray he’d remember them someday.
Miriam, my oldest, gives me grey hair with her daring ways, but have you heard her sing? Her voice brightens even the days of misery and my boy Aaron could persuade the Nile to flow backwards. He has such a way with words!
Novel PASTimes: Who is your role model?
JOCHEBED: My mother. Always my mother. Still—though she lies buried beneath the sands. Her words and her faith taught me how to trust G-d and how to listen for His voice. I try to teach that to my children.
Novel PASTimes: The story of your life—would you call it a tragedy or a mystery or what?
JOCHEBED: Sometimes it was a comedy, like when the goat ate my quota and sometimes it was a tragedy, but I think overall I’d call it a story of victory.
Novel PASTimes: Really? How?
JOCHEBED: Victory against fear. Victory over prejudice. Victory in spite of doubt.
Does that sound like I’m taunting Pharaoh?
Novel PASTimes: Not at all. I assure you the pharaoh will never know what you share here. Jochebed—did I say that correctly? What do you think about when you’re alone?
JOCHEBED: In a slave village, that doesn’t often happen. Hmmm. I think of seasons—how the seasons of the year change what we do and eat and fear. The seasons of life change people—who and what’s important to them and how they treat others.
Novel PASTimes: Change. What would you change about your life?
JOCHEBED: Everything. Nothing.
Novel PASTimes: Excuse me?
JOCHEBED: Like I tell my children, if you change one thing, everything else changes. Life would have been easier if I was not a slave, my husband not sent away, and my son’s life not endangered. But! I would not trade the knowledge that the Almighty, the G-d of my fathers heard me, a simple slave! He heard my prayer and saved Moses’ life. I am blessed among women.
Novel PASTimes: The book’s title is Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope. What is your hope?
JOCHEBED: I’m in a book? Is that like a scroll?
Novel PASTimes: Please, Jochebed?
JOCHEBED: My hope is that my prayers as a mother and the stories of our people’s faith will be woven like slender reeds—strong reeds—through the lives of my children—even Moses—and bind them to the Almighty.
About Author Texie Susan Gregory:
Studying why people act and respond the way they do fascinates me. I hold a master’s degree in School Counseling and a Master of Religious Education.
North Carolina born and bred, I currently live in Maryland with my husband, a PTSD therapist. Our two adult children live on opposite coasts—one near Boston and one near Los Angeles. I’m thankful they are on the same continent!
Jochebed and I would love to hear from you.
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