Why We Observe Passover

Matthew B. Koss, a self-described "athiest Jew," writes to his daughter about why he observes Passover.

BY: Matthew B. Koss, Associate Professor of Physics, College of the Holy Cross


My darling daughter, this night may not be that different from all other nights, but it is different enough to have us out and about on a school night going to a Passover dinner. The real question of the night is not one of the four questions that tradition once had you ask as part of the order of the evening. No, the question is, why is your father, an atheist Jew, taking you and your non-Jewish mother to a quasi-religious ceremony to read and consider one of the most well known stories about the God of the Hebrew Bible?

Biologist, author, and vocal atheist Richard Dawkins describes this God of the Hebrew Bible as "arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser; ..." and on and on he goes with several more lines of pejorative words, many of which I cannot pronounce, and most of which you may not even recognize. Dawkins then goes on to say that "those of us schooled in infancy in his ways can" become numb and lose our sensitivity to the horrors of this God.

I agree with Dawkins and I certainly do not wish for you to lose your sensitivity to the horrors in the story we tell on this night, a story that includes the death of all of Egypt's first born sons and of the drowning all of Pharaoh's soldiers just because they either believed in other gods or had the poor fortune to be born into a family that believed in other gods.

Continued on page 2: Why are we participating in this ritual when we don't go to temple even on Jewish holidays? »

comments powered by Disqus