Pesach - Why Bother
Pesach, a lot of work, an expense – for what purpose? Surely if the holiday is supposed to be about freedom we would be better served ordering in a take-out, and putting our feet up infront of the television?
Thus a new question for the 21st century. It’s not the classic question of the wicked child. The wicked child of the Haggadah - who doesn’t want to be part of the Jewish journey simply doesn’t ask the question, they’ve wandered off already – it’s one of the ‘gifts’ of the Enlightenment. Nothing forces the Jew into identifying against their desire. So we are left with the Jew who wants to identify Jewish, but doesn’t want the perceived burden of the hard work, they don’t want the institutionalised aspects of an institutionalised religion. They want Jewishness to be simply the desire to identify.
In part there is the belief that getting something out requires something be put in, ‘as the effort, so the reward,’ teaches the Talmud. In part there is the belief that more important that the easy joy of freedom is touching the nature of oppression – you need to taste the Marror to taste freedom. In part Pesach is about realising we aren’t ‘there’ yet – we live in a world where too many are oppressed, Jews and non-Jews alike. In part there is the belief that the opposite of enslavement to Pharaoh isn’t the freedom to do nothing at all, but rather the call to enter into a relationship of responsibility, accepting the price of freedom as a covenantal obligation to serve. In part there is the belief that Pesach is about more than freedom, it’s about experiencing Spring as new beginning and that becomes ritualised as a clean out of the old. Pesach is also about the generation by generation quality of Jewish existence – we clean and switch around and cook and the rest of it, to take out places in a narrative of Jewishness that echoes back through the millennia. In part there is the sense that somehow, folded into the rituals and the disciplines that echo back through the ages, we can encounter the will of God.
There is plenty to enjoy in the songs about the goat and favourite recipes (egg in salt-water – yum, we should do this more than once a year). But without engaging seriously with the rigmarole of Pesach Kashrut I don’t think it’s possible to understand the sheer breadth of the sophistication of a Jewish sense of freedom at this time. Please do engage.
My guide to Pesach kashrut is on-line [here http://www.newlondon.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=311&catid=32 ] and this Shabbat, after the services I’ll be sharing some observations on Pesach kashrut and answering any questions.