Sunday, April 8, 2012

Humanist Passover

This is one of those times of year when my Humanism is tested. I am keeping my house kosher for Passover (as much as I ever did) and we attended two seders. It's Easter today, and my Christian friends are posting all manner of glory on Facebook. And The Little Jewess is eight years old and when she has her cranky moments (she's just been sick and we've had a busy weekend, so they have been more frequent than usual this week) she asks me, "WHY do we have to have a seder? WHY can't I eat bread?"


I'm really glad I had those discussions with David.

Because I think it comes down to the story. The story of Passover tells us a lot about Jewish values, and it tells us a lot about who we are as a culture.

WHY do I have to say the Four Questions?!

I think it's essential that it says in the Torah that we should tell the story when our children ask us why we celebrate the holiday. We are a culture that values the curiosity and education of children. And this is a big part of why we have flourished when some other minorities have not. Because whatever happens that uproots one generation, we make sure the next generation has the tools to succeed. In the darkest points of history, when knowledge was despised by many, Jewish children learned to read, and to count, and to think. And we're still here.

The seder is another matter. We went to the second seder because we love that part of my family. My cousin invites us every year and we have a great time. It's also not a majorly religious event--my cousin's seder takes about 20 minutes, tops, and then it's just an enjoyable afternoon (yes, afternoon--I said it wasn't majorly religious) with lovely people and good food.

The first seder we hosted. I can't let a first night go by without a seder--I'm not sure why that is. But I have been working for several years on writing my own service, and it gets more Humanist every year. This year I took out the translations of the blessings and replaced them with Humanist blessings. I'm not sure I can take out the religious parts of the Hebrew, though, because parts of my family would object. We also read the entire Passover story from Exodus, which leads to much interesting discussion. I much prefer reading the story from Exodus to the commentary which is more traditional. So many people don't know the details of the story, and we forget them from year to year. But it's our story, and we should know it well.

But why not eat bread? I certainly don't believe that we'd be cast out of the community of Israel if we eat wheat during Passover. (This blog seems like a more serious crime if we're going to be cast out.) But I sort of like the rhythm of it. That first piece of pizza I eat at the end of Passover is the second best food I eat all year (after the first bite of bagel at the end of Yom Kippur.)

Here I go again, petering out at the end of a post. The fact is, I don't know why it matters to me that I don't eat bread on Passover, but it does. Does everything I do have to make sense?

A previous post on Passover is here.

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