Sunday, March 11, 2012

What's a Humanist Passover?

Being a Religious School teacher, I'm always one holiday ahead. It's our job. So even as I'm wearing my Purim costume, I'm thinking about Passover.

A few years ago I decided to write my own Haggadah. Although I had not yet heard of Humanism, I was well on my way, and I wanted a Hagaddah that would be short and simple but would foster discussion. Last year, I added the full text of the Passover story from Exodus.

This was something I'd been meaning to do for some time. Every year, I read the story to my third graders, and I learn a lot. More than that, I struggle, and the kids struggle too. There is a lot in that story that is truly frustrating. I wanted to share that frustration with those closest to me.

To me, that frustration is the essence of Judaism. We have this text, and it is our job to wrestle with it. It's not hard to find meaning in it, but no sooner do we find some than something else contradicts it. But year after year, the struggle continues.

And yet, we keep doing it, because we're Jews.

I remember my rabbi growing up used to say on Simchat Torah, when he welcomed the new Religious School students, that the Torah is the only book we love so much that we dance with it. And to me, there's value there that transcends God. This is our story. We have carried it with us--literally--through great adversity for generations. And it's not perfect. There's a lot in there that makes me angry, or confuses me, or makes me wonder who wrote this thing and why they made God the way they did. But it's my job to keep struggling, to wring every bit of wisdom I can from the story, and to pass the story along.

So I'm working on my Haggadah. It's got the traditional prayers in Hebrew with Humanist versions in English. That's partly to make my parents feel comfortable and partly because I can't quite feel comfortable changing the prayers altogether. It's got the whole story from Exodus. And it's got some good funny songs at the end.

Maybe this year I'll remember to make notes about what to change for next year.

What would you include in a Humanist seder?

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