Fellow Good Men Project author Thomas Fiffer shared his insights about the holiday of Passover. I saw his blog entry this morning as I was contemplating what to write for today’s Bliss Blog. Having been raised in a Jewish home, Passover was eagerly anticipated all year long. The pre-holiday tradition of changing the dishes was the equivalent of Spring cleaning, according to my mother. We would haul the boxes down from the attic; my father standing on the ladder that extended down from the hatch, as he handed them to us. Carrying them into the kitchen, peeling off their newspaper wrapping, piling them in the sink to wash them and then drying and placing them carefully in the empty cabinets that had been cleaned of ‘chametz’ ( foods that contain leavening) and replaced with Kosher for Passover items. Cooking commenced a few days prior to the first seder. All these years later, I can breathe in and re-create the delectable aromas. My mother and Uncle Jim would playfully banter about whether the matzah balls in the soup should be light and fluffy (my mom’s preference) or heavy, stick to your ribs (his ideal). She would lovingly change the consistency for a few of them for her big brother. I loved setting the table with the ‘good china’ which I have now as part of my inheritance since my parents have passed. Delicate floral plates, cups and bowls embellished the long table around which family and friends gathered. Some were part of ‘the tribe’, while others were family of choice of other faith traditions and eagerly listened to the story of the Exodus and enjoy the kitchen creations.
One of the highlights of the seder (which translates to ‘order’ in Hebrew) are what are referred to as The Four Questions. They are asked by the youngest child present.
Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either bread or matzah, but on this night we eat matzah?
Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?
Why is it on all other nights we do not dip even once, but on this night we dip twice?
Why is it that on all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we eat in a reclining position?
Following are Thomas’ corollary queries:
“Today, I would like to propose four alternate questions, for Jews and non-Jews alike to ask on the holiday.
Why is it that people around the world still live under oppressive regimes that limit their intellectual, religious, and economic freedoms?
Why is it that people in our own wealthy nation go hungry, with no bread, or matzah, or vegetables, or bitter herbs to eat?
Why is it that so many people still fight against our right to choose whom to love and whom to marry?
What can each of us do, in our own ways, to fight the scourge of oppression, the slavery of poverty, the limits imposed by prejudice and intolerance, and to empower more people to be free?”
As I sit with these questions, I have no answers, except to say that if we choose to carry the message of Passover into the world; that of freedom, redemption from slavery (some self imposed), miracles, trust in the God of our understanding, taking a stand in the face of oppression, feeding everyone, knowing that there is enough, inviting the world to our table, enjoying each other’s company, then they will become no brainers.
As I stand with Thomas and all those who choose to take on these questions as ‘marching orders’ with which we cross the desert and Red Sea, I know that we are not alone in embodying them even after we re-wrap the dishes and lift them back up into the attic where they will await their appearance at the seder table next year.
There is a song that is sung on Passover called Dayenu which translates to ‘it would have been enough’ and is a prayer of gratitude. This is a spoof using that title: http://youtu.be/E_RmVJLfRoM that focuses on the hope and promise of freedom.
http://tomaplomb.blogspot.com Thank you, Tom for your insights.
Photo credit: www.everystockphoto.com AlphaTangoBravo/Adam Baker