Moses (Avi Azulay, center) in between his siblings Aaron (Ishai Golan) and Miriam (Reymonde Amsellem) in "Testament: The Story of Moses." (Photo/Netflix)
Moses (Avi Azulay, center) in between his siblings Aaron (Ishai Golan) and Miriam (Reymonde Amsellem) in "Testament: The Story of Moses." (Photo/Netflix)

We found 430 inaccuracies in Netflix’s Moses docuseries ‘Testament’

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A group of University of Kentucky students recently reached out to me about the new Netflix show “Testament: The Story of Moses.” They’d heard about it and suggested a public screening.

This seemed like a great opportunity to gather and have a discussion about Moses, especially in the weeks before Passover. In total, over 2,000 people joined us for the virtual screening.

Advertised as a documentary, the three-part series went back-and-forth between narration, reenactments and commentary from a panel of academics and religious figures from the three Abrahamic faiths. After so many retellings of the Moses story, from “The Ten Commandments” to the much beloved “The Prince of Egypt” and even “A Rugrats Passover,” I was excited for what promised to be a scholarly take.

Unfortunately, I was severely disappointed.

With a run-time of over four and a half hours that felt far longer, “Testament” traveled through time and Moses’ life, often contradicting its own narrative.

While Avi Azouly, the young Israeli actor playing Moses, was compelling, much of the rest of the cast was underwhelming and seemingly given little to work with.

The narrative mistakes were many, coming early and often. Some of them, such as Moses breaking a glass at his wedding to mourn the destruction of a Holy Temple built nearly a thousand years after his passing, brought laughter from members of our watch party. Others — reenacting the 10 plagues but forgetting No. 4 (wild beasts), referring to Israel as Syria Palaestina (the Roman colonizers’ term), and dressing Moses in Joseph’s coat — brought dismay.

The “experts” themselves often chimed in with odd takes, such as Moses being the first social justice warrior and Egypt not having slaves.

In total, we counted 430 inaccuracies, many blatantly countering the words of the Torah.

However it was the negative portrayal of the prophets Moses, Aaron and Miriam that were the most damaging to the story.

Aaron (Ishai Golan), the faithful brother of Moses and pursuer of peace, is confrontational. Miriam (Reymonde Amsallem) the prophetess, the reservoir of faith, disbelieves. Moses is short fused, ill-tempered, nearly emotionally and physically abusive, and a poor communicator. He is obsessed with himself, almost manic-depressive, and aloof.

It was the negative portrayal of the prophets Moses, Aaron and Miriam that were the most damaging to the story.

In Judaism, Moshe Rabbeinu is our faithful shepherd, the ultimate leader and the mouthpiece of God. Nearly every impactful moment — Moses slaying the Egyptian overseer, his rescue of his future wife, his care for a single sheep, his advocacy before Pharaoh, even the breaking of the tablets — was rewritten to remove all impact and worth. Instead of these stories showing Moses’ attributes and character, the changed narrative removes his heroism, gratitude and kindness.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke of Moses as an entirely selfless defender of the Jewish people. Moses is seen as the ultimate example, not just for future leaders, but for all Jews.

The Moses of “Testament” has no essence and is merely a vehicle for the stilted, plodding narrative.

The worst part of the series is the fact that the frequent citing of Biblical verses and presence of multiple seemingly educated rabbis gives the false impression of a carefully researched film and an educational experience for a young Jew (or any other person looking to learn more about our history and faith). Such a seeker would be sorely disappointed and end up with a view far closer to the Quran than the book of Exodus it so often cites.

As Pesach approaches, I would advise you to instead find a seder. Taste the matzah and the maror, drink four cups of wine and experience the Exodus from Egypt firsthand. There is a tremendously engaging narrative that each and every Jew is a part of. The history that began in Egypt continues today around the world, with each and every Jew.

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin (Photo/Courtesy)
Rabbi Shlomo Litvin

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin is a Chabad rabbi and director of the Jewish Student Center at the University of Kentucky. A national advocate for combatting antisemitism, he is a prolific writer and educator with many leadership roles, including chairman of the Kentucky Jewish Council. He writes across social media as @BluegrassRabbi.