Sunday, April 20, 2008

Eating Bread on Passover

4/20/2008--I was asked by a friend who knows something of my current religious situation why I am not celebrating the rites of Passover. After all, many secular and humanistic Jews do so. There are even websites and communities for Humanistic Judaism.

My rejection of Jewish forms is not a criticism of this choice by others. Jews who do this are retaining their communal ties to the Jewish people. For me, however, that would emphasize the wrong tie of community.

In the movie, The Ten Commandments, Moses knows that he cannot be in community with his fellow Hebrews without experiencing slavery. So he renounces, or tries to, the privileges of his position as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and becomes a slave.

My people now are secularists, like myself, cut off from the reassuring practices of organized religion and trying to live a new, meaningful way of life without much of a guide. Of course, this community of people is not a community at all, yet. It has no self-awareness, no sense of itself. It is being born.

I eat bread on Passover in solidarity with my fellow secularists. I have renounced the privileges of a Jewish way of life. In this way, I experience the slavery of this culture’s materialism and pray for liberation to a quite unknown God.

Last night, the traditional night of the first Seder, my wife Patt and I spent a wonderful time drinking wine, watching Crimes and Misdemeanors (surely the best American reflection on the degrees of good and evil--with a great Seder scene), reading in St. Francis de Sales and Waskow’s classic, the Freedom Haggadah. It was quite a celebration, which is always a good idea, even for a secularist. Incidentally, it is a scandal that the Freedom Haggadah is out of print. It holds up wonderfully well. I urge progressive Jews to give it a try again and stop reinventing the wheel all the time.

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