Thursday, April 13, 2006

Family seder

A commenter at Street Prophets observed that the Passover seder is a ritual of "freedom, family, and food." That seems a good concise description of this celebration of the journey from slavery to liberation.

Last night I once again had the privilege of attending a seder with much of my lesbian family. We're a pretty mixed bag in some ways -- and in other ways not mixed at all. We're all white, middle aged, economically comfortable. Though a majority are Jewish, only a bare majority grew up with much religious practice in their homes. Several of us are Christians, but we too are family.

Our opening song, sung to the tune of "Take me out to the ballgame," sets a rollicking tone.

Take me out to the Seder
Take me out with the crowd.
Feed me on matzah and chicken legs,
I don't care for the hard-boiled eggs....
And lets, root, root, root for the leader
That [s]he will finish [her] spiel
So we can nosh, nosh, nosh and by-gosh
Let's eat the meal!!!

But the seder is also a serious matter. Some of our members are among the brave women who have worked long and hard to move an appreciation of women's full equality into more mainstream Jewish practice. They are comfortable mixing old and new. The new rituals are there, including an orange placed on the seder plate and setting out Miriam's cup as well as Elijah's.

The elements of the tradition are also there: the lighting of the candles, the Hebrew blessings of the symbolic foods and drink, the retelling of the Exodus story: how God, through Moses, led the Hebrews out of Egypt and out of slavery. This group of women knows we've experienced more liberation ourselves than we once imagined possible -- and we try to remember that the struggle for freedom is never altogether won. The Haggadah reminds us:

Of the generation who left Egypt, only two of them lived to enter the land of Israel. The process of liberation takes time -- we are still working on it.

Not only was it necessary to take the Jews out of Egypt; it was also necessary to take Egypt out of the Jews.

Rabbi Hanoch of Alexandria said:
The real exile of Israel in Egypt was that they learned to endure it.

We are conscious of the many who still languish in various forms of bondage, this week especially immigrant workers in our land. For many of us, the most poignant moment of this ritual is when we remember the women, family, friends and mentors, who have come before us.

And then to food and drink; this crowd is amicably split between California red wine imbibers, Manischewitz traditionalists, and grape juice fanciers.

1 comment:

risasperson said...

Take me out to the Seder
Take me out with the crowd...

Now that's how ya start a seder!


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