The first night of Passover (Pesach) arrives tonight, March 25. (I write this post now because I was in Phoenix over the weekend.) Of great note, with the exception of Chanukah (the Christmas influence) more Jews attend some sort of Seder than observe any other holiday, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur included. Why?
Why indeed. And so I share with you a poem that comprises the first page of the Haggadah I put together some years ago and just revised—Haggadah Shel She’elot, Haggadah of Questions. The Haggadah is the “telling” of the Passover story. But in Jewish tradition, asking is just as important. So whether or not you observe Passover, you may find this of interest. Because when a small minority hangs on to its identity and observances for 3,200 years (dating back to the first Pesach) and more, questions must be asked.
WHY THIS NIGHT?
Why this night? And why this year
Just like last year?
All that tsuris with Pharaoh.
The plagues. The deaths of the firstborn yet.
That was thirty-two hundred years ago.
Why this table? This Seder plate?
The shank bone and the greens and the egg and the maror
And the charoset.
All this matzah, too. A whole week of matzah.
Seven or eight days—whichever you observe.
Not to mention the wine. Five cups yet,
Including one for Elijah.
And just who is Elijah anyway?
Do we really expect him to walk through the door?
He’s got a lot of doors to walk through
On this night.
Face it. Millions of Jews are doing the same thing
All around the world.
And why are there Jews anyway?
Isn’t it just an accident of birth?
Some say, “Hey, I’m a Jew, sure,
But I’m not Jewish.”
What’s the difference?
And what do they gain by
Turning their backs on the past?
And what do they lose?
And what’s to lose if we make this night
Like all other nights?
On all other nights, we’re just like
Isn’t that what we want?
Although when you think of it, everyone else
Is never just like us.
For all of you sitting down at a Seder tonight and tomorrow night, Chag Sameach—Happy Holiday (literally “Festival”). For all of you celebrating Easter this Sunday, Happy Easter. And for all of you who have or create other traditions—Shavuah tov—have a good week.
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