Sunday, April 5, 2009

Quit Your Whining

One of my least favorite parts of Pesach* is liberal Jews whining about the parts of the Haggadah that they do not consider politically correct. When I say "liberal Jews," I am not speaking about political preferences, though there is some overlap, but rather about denominations. A liberal Jew, as I am using it, is a non-Orthodox Jew. Not all liberal Jews whine about this sort of thing. I am Conservadox, and I consider myself a liberal Jew, because sometimes I care about modernity more than halakhah (Jewish law), primarily on occasions when I deem a particular piece of halakhah stupid (DO NOT TRY THIS halakhic parsing AT HOME).
But I don't whine about the Haggadah, for a few reasons:

1. I know the context(s) in which it was written, i.e. a little before 1960. A friend who studies this kind of thing tells me that Shfoch Chamatchah (Pour out Your Wrath), one of the favorite targets of the Haggadah whiners, was added to the seder in the Middle Ages. If you were dodging Crusaders and blood libel accusations, how P.C. would you have been? And don't get me started on the Ten Plagues. If you think they weren't fair, don't come to the seder.
2. I'm not naive enough to think that everyone would like Jews if only we would be nice to them. Maybe in the ealry '90's, there was a brief period when I thought that. But I was 12. What was everyone else's excuse?
3. Unlike the people who go to one of the shuls around here, not to mention TF's minyan, I don't sit around all day trying to find the parts of the Torah and liturgy that "embarrass" me.

That may just beg the question of why people bother to get embarrassed at traditional Jewish liturgy, even if they are Conservative and would retch after five minutes of a Reform service, where, for better or worse, people try to deal with liturgical problems by changing the liturgy, not by complaining. I think it's because they don't understand the liturgy. This is understandable, especially in the case of the Hagaddah. We get two nights per year with no rabbi and one of the hardest texts in Judaism? Who thought that up? But if you don't understand, just say "I don't understand" instead of "I'm embarrassed." You're allowed to be human. Even if you have a Ph.D.

*no, it's not the eating matzah, the constipation, the cleaning, OR the three days without a hot shower, but thanks for playing.


elf's DH said...

was written in the Middle Ages

Being pedantic: It's from Tanach. I think you mean added to the seder? For what's it's worth, it's not mentioned in Seder Rav Amram Gaon, Seder Rav Saadiah Gaon, or the Rambam's haggadah.

katrina said...

I changed it. But you are very, very pedantic. Very. Very.

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