Passover, the Right Equipment & Me
Posted March 31, 2010on:
It is a tradition in the Passover Seder – yes I’m writing about Passover again, much to my surprise – to have three matzos on the ceremonial Seder plate. Early in this celebration, the middle matzo is broken off, wrapped in a napkin and kept for “dessert” at the end of the meal, although there’s no chocolate involved.
Usually the Seder leader hides it in the house and the children look for it with the winner getting some kind of prize. But sometimes, like in the house where we were last night, it is stolen.
Yes, thievery is the tradition it the home of Carol and Roger. Terribly shocked (every time), Roger attempts to get it back, offering a nickel, then a dime and finally a dollar coin – this year the Sacagawea, first minted in 2000 to honor this Native American woman who was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
After giving each child the coin, Roger shows up with two mystery boxes for each child. The youngest child has the first choice of small boxes, trading the coin for what is inside if he or she wishes. In the history of this Seder, only one child chose to keep the coin.
He/she can shake the boxes before choosing and then peers inside and discovers usually hysterical items purchased by Roger with great relish. If the child doesn’t like the first item, he/she can trade it for a big box.
Often, bigger is not better. Years ago, one of Roger’s children traded something she really liked for what turned out to be a jar of grape jelly. And, she explained, she prefers strawberry. There were two eligible children Tuesday night and I commented afterwards that I think they should raise the age limit.
Roger said he would for me, going for two more boxes and a coin. I took the coin, thinking I could use it for my healthcare bills. But the lure of the boxes got to me. I opened the first box and it was binoculars inside a stuffed dog. Cute, but I had to keep going. Inside the other box were bunny ears.
“They’ll be great when I work at night,” I said.
Yes, I was not thinking Easter bunny but Playboy Bunny. Since this mastectomy, I knew I didn’t have the right equipment – until now.
I can’t resist this. Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which works to keep church and state separate, wrote to complain about the Seder in the White House on her blog under the headline, “White House Seder Seems Indigestible.”
Tonight at sundown the White House is hosting its second annual Seder. I am all for celebrating with others on their feast days, sharing camaraderie, ethnic customs and, especially, culinary treats. The genesis of the White house Seder — that it was undertaken by the Obama campaign when it was under siege and some Jewish staffers were stuck on the road over Passover — is understandable. It is also understandable why African-American White House staffers could identify with a meal that celebrates release from slavery (“Let my people go”). And it’s kinda nice this is an “inside meal” (no influential rabbis or outsiders invited).
But “seder” means “order” in Hebrew, so this is a meal fraught with “must-dos.” (And lending credence to the theory that most religions have been started by obsessive-compulsives. However, the requirement that diners drink four glasses of wine by meal’s end probably accounts for the seder’s popularity.) But what gives me indigestion is the image of the president, pictured last year with bible in hand over his plate, reading from the Old Testament, and the announcement that this year he will pass the bible around the table and that all guests are expected to take turns reading aloud and reciting prayers.
Let’s get real. “Passover” is a date which doesn’t just commemorate but actually celebrates a gruesome supernatural event — the date upon which the Hebrew deity supposedly killed every firstborn Egyptian son. The firstborn sons of the pious Israelites were saved because they smeared sacrificial blood on their doorposts for their suddenly not-quite omniscient deity.
Is this imagined mass genocide, which extended not just to humans but even the male firstborn of other animals, a nice thing to celebrate? More to the point, the basis of the seder celebration, the flight from enslavement in Egypt by the Israelites, never happened! Read Isaac Asimov.
Even Biblical Archeology Review will tell you the same thing: There isn’t a shred of evidence that the Jews as a group even lived in Egypt around 2000 B.C., or in fact ever lived there in ancient times, much less that they were ever enslaved by any pharaoh.
Like most of the bible, this is a fable. Bible scholars speculate that the Israelites realized there was some Egyptian influences in their monotheism, so they invented a story to explain it around the seventh century B.C. Jews have endured plenty of historic injustices; why commemorate a nonexistent persecution? So have yourself a very secular seder. Pass the horseradish and the matzo (with religiously incorrect butter, thank you), the yummy potato pancakes and the macaroons.
Just please don’t swallow the myth the seder is based on. This myth, which in today’s world can play into continuing animosities between real-life Jews and real-life Arabs, deserves to be debunked and laid to rest, along with belief in the bible it is based on.
Read the post at: http://www.ffrf.org/news/releases/white-house-seder-seems-indigestible/
Annie, Annie, Annie.
I do believe in the separation of church and state, but would love to have been at that White House Seder. Am I consistent on this issue? I’ll have to think about it. This was not establishing religion but a recognition of the commonality of the issues of Passover like freedom.
It was a private dinner, not open to the public. I assume Annie Laurie Gaylor will now go against the annual Easter egg roll on the White House lawn.
She can have my bunny ears when she can pry them from my …