Monday, April 10, 2017

Old Story, New Audience

I'm about 99% Pesadik as I write this. The other 1% is my dining room floor which I will do as soon as I hit the "go" button. But the kitchen is done, and while it doesn't have the old familiar feel of my old kitchen, this is, even though I actually moved into the house Pesadik last year, a fresh start, a new beginning. 

That's what Passover is about...starting over. Whether or not you buy into the mythology of Passover, there are some things to take away from the experience. Like cleaning your kitchen. If the expiry date is 2013, throw it away. If the Moroccan tangine pot you bought for that North African dinner party you didn't throw in 1989 still has the tag attached, you might want to get rid of it. But if you find yourself cradling Grandma's chrain jar and checking to see if it still has a whiff of horseradish, you might want to hang on to that one. Passover tells a very old story to a new audience every year. 
The more one tells of the departure from Egypt, the more one is to be praised.                                                                                     any Haggadah
Of course, this has become a metaphor for whatever you want it to be. The seder plate that once held a roasted egg, a roasted lamb's shank bone, parsley, bitter herbs, and the mortar-like charoset now can also have an orange, an olive, a tangerine in sections, and newest of all, a banana. Each one is a metaphor:
  • the orange = the inclusion of women
  • the olive = peace offering, like an olive branch, for the Middle East
  • the tangerine = the inclusion of the entire LGBT community
  • the banana = the plight of refugees from all over the globe. 
Different people add different things to represent pieces of more recent stories of struggle. 

If the point of the holiday is to spur discussion, then there is a plethora of Haggadot for the occasion. This year, there's a HAMILTON HAGGADAH and a HOGWARTS HAGADDAH. This is not a new phenomenon. For a couple of millennium, people have been adding and subtracting from the text. The oldest known Haggadah is from about 1000 C.E. and was found in the Cairo Genizah. Like the rest of Judaism, the story of the departure from Egypt is fluid in the telling with each generation adding, embellishing, and even subtracting from the text.

2nd seder - ready to go
In olden days, I was much more stringent about my preparations for Pesach. Ziggy used to say I was being machmir, and not in a good way. Anytime he used the word machmir, I knew he was thinking borderline crazy. Most of the time he humored me, but there were moments I could see he was getting ready to yell, "GENUG! Enough already!" in a way only a mid-western guy who grew up in a not-Jewish household could possibly yell, "GENUG!" It used to just crack me up and I would keep on doing whatever it was I was covering all the laminate counters with plastic sheets. (Ah, the joys of granite counters! No more plastic!) I find I buy less and less packaged food, and more raw ingredients. I have jumped off the kitniyot cliff and may actually use rice this year. Quinoa fer sure, but that's not kitniyot anyway. Neither is wild rice. And if that is not change enough, I will be hosting second seder night here ...and it will be vegetarian. 

I keep a kosher home and always will. I'm wired that way; it's the only way I know how to run a kitchen. And I don't mind. I have to think before I buy, cook, or even eat. The whole purpose of kashrut, I have long suspected, is to make us do just that. THINK about what we're doing. 

Any religion that isn't making you think through daily events, tasks, and relationships isn't much of a religion. If you're not using your faith to frame what you do in relation to your relationships, your environment, your community, and the world beyond, then your religion isn't doing its job. 

If your religion tells you to hate, tells you that it's okay to elect a serial adulterer even though the bylaws say adultery is on the top-ten list of No-Nos, tells you that once the fetus is a child that child is not worth protecting, or tells you that profiting from the abuse of natural resources is more important than caring for the health and well-being of this planet, then your religion isn't doing its job. 

Religion really isn't about G-d, y'know. It's about us. It's about providing a frame through which we can view the world. And it doesn't much matter through which frame you look, as long as at the end if the day, you're leaving your campsite cleaner than you found it. If you want to be machmir in your observance, if you want to be truly religious, consider how you treat the world around you. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

And if you don't like how the world around you is being treated, 
don't settle for a shrug and a "meh." 
Your voice, your presence, and your faith in something better
 is central to repairing this world


  1. Happy Passover to you and your family Ma'am.

  2. Food for thought - as always!

    Thank you and Chag Sameach,