Character types are the backbone of storytelling. Whether or not a writer(s) chooses to go beyond these stereotypes tells us everything that we need to know about the creators of the narrative.
The Jewish holiday of Passover starts on Friday night. One of the components of the story of the exodus from Egypt is the Four Sons. Each son (whom I refer to as a child instead, because of well, feminism.) is a stereotype. The eldest knows everything that there is to learn about and is still eager to know more. The second-born would rather be someplace else, doing anything else. The third child knows the basics and needs a simple answer. The youngest does not even know how to ask the question.
My problem is with the image of the second eldest child. In traditional terms, this person is dealt with harshly. They are basically told that had they been in Egypt, they would have been left in bondage. Looking at the text with a modern lens, rebellion or questioning the status quo is not a bad thing. It forces us, as a culture to look our demons in the eye and make a decision: do we deal with our problems or stick our heads in the sand?
In a religious context, the second child speaks to those of us who are discontent with the all-or-nothing aspect of faith. According to a Gallup poll from last year, less than half of all Americans attend regular religious services. This is compared to 80 years ago when almost three-quarters were in a house of worship at least once a week. I think this comes down to flexibility and understanding that many younger people are turned away from the old-school way of looking at religion. If the wish is for the pews to be full, a little creativity may be needed to bring back those who have drifted away.
Diversity, as we all know, is a huge thing these days. But diversity for diversity’s sake is meaningless and empty. The only way it works is if we truly understand why a certain culture or faith has certain practices.
Over the weekend, Jews around the world recounted the story of the Exodus via the holiday of Passover. Carly Friesen, a Christian Lifestyle coach, decided to have a “Christian Seder“. The meal was completed by “Passover Challah” and a prayer to the Christian Savior.
If there was ever a definition of cultural appropriation, this is it. Anyone who has any basic knowledge of Passover knows that bread, pasta, and other foods in that category are verboten during the eight days. She could have made a genuine gesture by at least trying to adhere to the traditional food rules of the holiday. The amount of resources she could have pulled information from is nearly endless.
Instead, she took some of the most precious and respected aspects of Judaism and this week and twisted them to fit her needs. It is not exactly a secret that some members of the Christian faith have not exactly been shy about taking everything, including our lives, from Jews at certain points in history. It’s 2021. It’s time to think about how we treat minority cultures and people, especially when it comes to their most sacred objects and traditions.
It is not uncommon to open a history book and see a complete profile of a man. A woman, however is at best given a paragraph or a footnote and at worst, ignored completely.
The Jewish holiday of Passover starts this weekend. Though Moses is the protagonist of the story, his story would be nothing without the women around him. Given the many dangers around them, the easier thing would have been to say and do nothing. But instead, they stepped up, helping Moses to succeed and paving the way for Jewish women to do the same in their own eras.
Shifra and Puah: Shifra and Puah are the midwives who were responsible for bringing Hebrew children into the world. Brought before Pharaoh, they are told to kill every male newborn. They claim that they are unable to do this because by the time they get to the mother, the baby has already arrived.
Yocheved: Moses’s mother was facing a parent’s worst nightmare. Infant boys, when discovered by Pharaoh’s soldiers, were taken to the Nile and drowned. The only way she can save her son is to put him in a basket, send it floating down the Nile and pray that he would survive.
Bithia or Batya (sometimes referred to as the Egyptian Princess): Finding baby Moses in his basket as she washes up in the river, it is obvious that this child is of the Hebrew faith. Instead of reporting this discovery and sending him to his death, she adopts Moses and raises him as her own.
Miriam: Miriam is Yocheved’s only daughter. Not only does she watch over her baby brother, but she approaches the Princess, asking if she needs a wet nurse. That wet nurse is her mother. Years later, when Hebrews are wandering through the desert, it is Miriam who leads the former slaves via song to get to the promised land.
Tziporah: Tziporah is Moses’s wife. Though she is Midianite Princess and not of the Hebrew faith, she embraces his heritage as her own. Traveling with him back to Egypt, she encourages Moses to face his destiny and become the man who will lead his people to freedom.
I don’t think it is much of a stretch to say the coronavirus is a major downer, to say the least. It has changed everything about the way we live.
Anything we can do to cheer up and help goes a long way.
On Saturday, Saturday Night Seder aired on YouTube.
Featuring a number of Jewish (and non-Jewish) celebrities, the story of Passover was told in a way that I have never seen.
It was funny, it was charming and educational without hitting the audience over the head.
If there was one part that was the shit, it was Idina Menzel singing Ma Nishtana (starts at 23:53). I’ve sung that song many time over the years, but this is the first time I’ve gotten a chill down my back.
It was also an opportunity to make a worthy donation to the front line workers via the CDC Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.
If the Israelites were able to survive slavery and forty years in the desert, we can survive coronavirus. We just need a little light in our lives and Saturday Night Seder provided that.
It is without a doubt that the corona-virus has changed everything about the way we live our lives.
That includes religious practice.
Wednesday and Thursday were the first and second nights of Passover, respectively. For many Jews, a normal Passover Seder consists of a large group of family and friends coming together to eat, drink and tell the story of Passover. But, with the influence of corona-virus, the traditional Seder had to be amended.
My family, many others, used Zoom to digitally get together with our loved ones.
I think the best perspective on this new way of conducting Seders can be best summed up by a statement my father made Wednesday night. He said that his father, my late grandfather (who died 30 years ago), would not at all have approved.
My grandfather (Z”l) was in a certain sense, a man of tradition. He believed in and lived by the Judaism that he loved. That love of Judaism and our traditions were passed to his children and later, his grandchildren. It is one of the reasons that I am still a Jew in every sense of the word and proud of my faith.
While my grandfather would not have approved of Wednesday and Thursday nights, I know that it was the right thing. Not being in the same room with our family and friends was weird. But if I had a choice of holding a Zoom Seder or having none at all, I would choose a Zoom Seder.
There is something about a holiday special that is done right. If it is well balanced with tradition and family without being too schmaltzy, it can last years, if not generations.
Back in 1995, A Rugrats Passover aired. It tells the Passover story as only the Rugrats can. In a nutshell, the children are told the story by Grandpa Boris. As the tale begins, Tommy imagines himself as Moses and Angelica as Pharaoh.
When it initially aired, I was not the target audience. But looking back, I can see why this episode is as beloved as it is. It is charming, funny and talks directly to the children watching as only a program of this nature can.
If this was an ordinary April, the next two nights would be about food, family and tradition. But not in the age of coronavirus. While the next two nights will be about food, family, and tradition, it will not be same.
If there is one thing I have learned during the plague that is Covid-19, it is to appreciate the simple things. I appreciate the fact that I am still healthy. I appreciate the food on my plate and the clothing on my back. I appreciate the roof over my head and that I am still employed. I appreciate that the technology exists that allows me to stay in touch with those I love and do my job.
One of the songs that is sung during the Seder is is called Dayenu. In a nutshell, it lists what G-d did for the Israelite slaves. If G-d had only bestowed one gift, it would have been enough (Dayenu). But my heavenly parent bestowed 15 gifts, sending the Israelites on a path to freedom.
For all of my blessings during this difficult time, I say Dayenu. If there is one thing this time has taught me, it is to count my blessings, for which I have many.
From my family to yours, I wish those who celebrate a Happy Passover and may we all get through this plague known as coronavirus in one piece.
It is without a doubt that the coronavirus has upended our lives as we know them to be.
This includes religious practice. With the holidays of Easter, Passover, and Ramadan coming quickly, the faithful must find new ways to celebrate their respective holidays while following the recommendations of the experts.
Across the country and across the world, religious leaders are turning to video conferencing services programs such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other programs to hold services.
What is frustrating to me is that there are some who are are willingly putting their lives and the lives of their loved ones in danger by acting as life is normal. Last month, a Fundamentalist church in Indiana held services in spite of warnings against holding large gatherings. In Israel and in my hometown of New York City, some ultra-Orthodox Jews ignored the edicts by the government to prevent coronavirus from spreading further than it already has spread.
Anyone who has read this blog knows of my Jewish faith. Though I am not as religious as others, my faith is important to me. Passover starts Wednesday night. My family, like many other families, are being creative when it comes to the Seder and the traditional ways of telling the Passover story.
If the coronavirus has taught us one thing, it is that it takes a little flexibility to get through tough times. To say that we are going through tough times is an understatement. That requires us to understand that we cannot live as we did a month ago. Those who willingly ignore that fact endanger us all.
A week ago yesterday, which was Easter Sunday, bombs went off across Sri Lanka. When all was said and done, hundreds were dead and many more were injured.
Today, there was a shooting closer to home. In San Diego, one person was killed and three were injured in a shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue. Today is also the last day of Passover.
I hate to ask what is a simplistic question, but can’t we all get along? Is it so impossible to just live and let live? Why must we choose who is worthy and who is unworthy based on factors such as race, religion, sexuality, etc? At the end of the day, we are all human beings. We breathe the same way, we eat the same way and we use the bathroom in the same way.
For once, I wish I could watch the news without hearing that someone has been attacked or killed because of who they are.
May the memory of the person killed be a blessing to those who loved them.
Around the world, millions of Jews will sit down to the Seder and remember the exodus from Egypt.
Though the story is about one specific group of people are led to freedom, it speaks to everyone who has felt put down, pushed aside or made to feel like the other.
For me personally, this holiday coincides with the fact that there will soon be a change in my career. I will be walking through the desert of unemployment, with my creator walking silently by my side and praying for the professional manna that will support me until I am again employed.
I have to believe that something good is coming. G-d is not sending me to the proverbial professional desert for kicks and giggles. I believe that I will reach the professional promised land.
In this time of professional uncertainty and being that Passover starts tonight, I can’t think of a better song that “When You Believe” from the Prince of Egypt.
Welcome to my advocacy blog. My goal is to post relevant information that will spark action, discussion and interaction, creating a catalyst for solutions and ideas to impact the challenges we face in our society. We welcome comments, suggestions and submissions in support of those seeking a voice. "...Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear..."