Friday, April 18, 2008

Passover and Politics: Reflections

Hey, Passover starts tomorrow night - it's always been my favorite holiday.

A fine feast, catchy songs, and a great storyline - what more can you ask for?

The part I like best comes early in the seder. Why do we need to have a Passover ceremony - the answer is provided by a look at The Four Sons. The first son is highly intelligent - no need to have the story of Passover told for him, because he already understands it. The second son is evil - no point in telling the Passover story for him, because he deemed himself above all of this. The third is a little bit of a dim-wit - no need to have the story told to him either, because the meaning can be satisfactorily conveyed to his weak mind in just a few, simple sentences. But the fourth son - he who has not the capacity to even inquire - he is the reason that the Passover story must be told. It must be told, in other words, for those who, for whatever reason (perhaps because they are too young, or otherwise know nothing at all about the ceremony), cannot even ask a question. It is told just in case they may be interested in learning more.

Which son did I always identify with? The evil son, of course... :)

Now, clearly, this part of the ceremony is also sexist - though, in all of the seders I've ever been part of, girls as well as boys were considered part of the The Four Sons (the youngest child - girl or boy - reads The Four Questions, which come a little before The Four Sons).

The story, of course, is the rising up against oppressors, and freeing a people from bondage. It is a story, alas, that never grows old.

Back in 1968, I remember scandalizing my Uncle Benny by saying something at our seder about Martin Luther King, Jr., who had just been assassinated. It wasn't that Benny was a bigot - he was just surprised to hear a current event talked about at a seder.

This year, we have another kind of bondage that we can rise up against. We have an African-American and a woman running for President - the first time for each group in America. I strongly support Barack Obama, and expect him to be our next President, but I also will honor Hillary Clinton and her contribution at the seder.

I hope that every American who has yet to vote, and can vote in the upcoming primaries, does so. We made some progress since Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt. We can rise up from the bondage of the last eight years now by going to the polls.

Have a sweet Passover, everyone!
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