Passover with Soul?

By Alan Katz-

Let all the people go...

This week is the celebration of the oft misunderstood Jewish Holiday of Passover, 2018.

By far my favorite Holiday, because it encompasses all of my favorite things: family, food, symbolism and global politics.

The first two nights of Passover take place in the home. No temple. No Rabbi. It's about and for, the Family.

Generations of Jews of all sectors (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform , Ashkenazi and Sephardic alike) gather around the table and celebrate (which is rare for Jewish Holidays to begin with--haha!) their freedom from slavery.

This is no July 4th. This is not freedom from just tyranny, this is slavery. Building the pyramids and whips and chains slavery. No rights, no freedom, slavery.

It has always struck me that while this Holiday has been celebrated and commemorated for thousands of years and has brought joy and hopefulness to so many for so long...that a similar Holiday for the African American community in the USA might have a similar positive effect.

This is not a sweep it under the carpet Holiday, this is a gather around, takeover a whole aisle at the Supermarket, rush home from work or take off from school, Holiday. This is about family, kids, neighbors.

This is a Holiday where the tale is recounted, for generations to remember. To never forget; 'We were once slaves in Israel...'

A separate and unique book is prepared and shared. Called a Haggadah, this book/pamphlet helps tell the story and if your family really reads it, engenders a closeness and tradition not easily matched on any other day. Hence 'why this day is different from all others'.

You sit different, you eat different, you drink different and you speak different. The Haggadah is often passed out to all, children included. The entire table/room reads from the pages, in succession. Many families can mark time by how well and how fluid the little ones at the table can read, over the years.

Sure, the story is from the Bible (the book of Exodus), the lead characters Moses and Pharaoh are monumental. The plagues, miracles and ultimate glory are timeless.

But with a little secular imagination, the story is also incredibly remarkable and relevant...always.

The food. The food is either gross or absolutely delicious for all to partake. There are the ritual offerings which represent the various plagues, atrocities and slave labor which are featured on the Seder plate or passed around as written in the Haggadah, and followed in order. Everything from the bricks and mortar of the Pyramids to the tears and hope for freedom from affliction, of our people. On top of that you can add the family traditions by region, nation and continent, whether that be eggs in water, rice over potatoes or plain or egg matzoh (even chocolate covered matzoh for dessert).

And of course the matzoh ball soup and Gefilte fish. You either love it, tolerate or absolutely hate it. Either way, you look forward to those epicurean emotions and memories they stir.

No temple, no rabbi, no outside source of organization...just the family, immediate, extended, and of course, friends and those 'who have no where to go' (give us your tired, your poor and hungry for bland, under salted and somewhat strange dishes).

But we love it. We love the odd, once-a-year smells. We love the effort that goes into the cooking, the reading, the remembering.

We love that it's what sets us apart and what brings us together.

And therein lies the opportunity.

The opportunity for all people's who have been oppressed, driven into slavery and shamed or belittled by their past.

Create a Holiday. Create a story, filled with truths and with mythical heros and villains. A story that can bring people, families and generations together.

As I state at the top, a group of people and a Holiday that is beckoning to be recognized is the former slaves and civilly afflicted, African American community. Sure, it's not a homogenous and singular religious group. It's not from one country to one country. The bushes didn't magically burn or the seas didn't miraculously part. But there was a ‘magical’ railroad, a bus that ‘parted the seats’ and a messiah that brought his people to the mountain top.

But the feeling is one. The emotions are one. And yes, not unlike anti-semitism, the wounds have not all healed or will be any time soon. And while it hasn't been three thousand years, it's not 'too soon'.

There are scattered vibes on how to do this best, Juneteenth being the most prominent, but still way under realized or barely known.

So call it what you want, just call it. Make it real. Make it happen. Celebrate pride. Remember the bad, speak it, shine a light on it. And not just move on, move forward. With that pride. With the strength of family. No clergy is needed. Easy?... no. Necessary, I think, yes.

Not a Passover goes by, since my pre-teens, when I haven't wondered or hoped that the most oppressed people's of our last millennia would have their day in the light. Their day to share their pride and share their tears.

So enjoy your matzoh and crappy wine and salty water and dense or fluffy balls. Enjoy your family and friends and over eating and bread fasting. But try and really make the most of the Holiday and remember those around you who are still suffering today.

Who are still in the shadows and not living free. Oppressed politically, racially and sexually.

The Jews have their day...get yours.

Let all the people go!!
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