What is Pesach (Passover), precisely? Do you actually know, beyond the accepted teaching of your community?
Pesach is the yearly Jewish celebration of two very ancient spring festivals in one. A sheppard’s firstborn slaughter festival + a farmer’s wheat harvest festival + modern rabbinical re-invention of these holidays = Pesach, as we know it today! Let’s break this down further, shall we?
There is the spring sheppard festival of celebrating the firstborn of domesticated animals, through slaughtering and consuming these nefesh chayah (living breathing-creatures, as Torah puts it, that are of the four-legged and without-voice kind). This is why this festival is celebrated during the spring season, and it is also why it is called Pesach (passover, the warding off evil from homes by marking entrances with the blood of slaughtered animals).
There is also the farmer’s wheat harvest festival that celebrates the spring time’s first-fruits of the coming year’s barley and wheat harvest. Planted in autumn as seeds and dormant all winter, it is a testament to life and survival to see the land blossom in the new spring after winter’s barrenness. Though likely originally celebrated more closer to summer’s first harvesting, this seasonal festival has been shifted over and merged into this sheppard’s spring festival. This is why matzot (unleavened bread) is eaten at this time of year, ahead of season, during the spring festival rather than in summer when barley has already matured and wheat is reaching its fullest.
Originally, during the monarchy ruled kingdom years of Jewish history, each was celebrated separately in their season, and there was no exodus story tradition to merge them together as one. With the rise of the subsequent priestly ruled kingdom, after the fall of the original monarchy kingdoms, the Jews in the wilderness tradition that pre-existed an exodus story was supplanted by a new tradition of Exodus from Egypt and nation-hood at Sinai.
This is what solidified the festival of Pesach (Exodus and Matzot) as the tradition that we know and celebrate as Jews today. Although, when it comes to how we celebrate this festival, it would take the Rabbi’s of the Common Era (A.D.) to turn it into the Seder meal that we all know and celebrate in some way.
Though the farmer’s and sheppard’s festival is still a vital part of this spring festival celebration, it is the humanistic focus that is now most paramount. The humanism of struggling for and finding freedom and ethic self-autonomy from out of bondage and persecution and slavery, shared on these nights (and in Torah) within a mythical story of a storm god known as Yahweh, who chooses the Jewish people for redemption and national salvation.
The rest is the story near everyone knows, a Levitical priest and Jewish patriarch known as Moshe (Moses) leads an exodus of Jews from Mitzrayim (Egypt) and from slavery, through the spell-binding supernatural feats of the Jewish national god, and establishes them as a nation after a forty year wandering in a dry desert wilderness.
This is a festival story that reminds us to share our more recent histories of exodus from oppression, and to struggle always as a Jewish ethnicity for liberation of those who are oppressed. Whether it is our fellow Jews or others of different ancestry throughout this world, we need this festival of remembrance to remind us and be active.
Hope you all enjoy our spring festival, and chag Pesach sameach!
#Pesach #Passover #Jewish
Because they so need to learn – #maga #inhisimage #inhislikeness
A Humanistic Passover Celebration
Humanistic Jews question the traditional explanations of Pesakh. There is no evidence that the Exodus occurred or that the Hebrew people were in Egypt in the numbers described. The traditional Haggada includes an anthropomorphic, active, ethnocentric God and the passive deliverance by God of the Hebrews. There are few, if any, women in the traditional Passover story, and there are no daughters while four sons are described.
A secular Passover relates a nontheistic tale. Humanistic Jews celebrate the actions people take to improve their own lives. A cultural Passover recognizes gender equality and the value of inclusivity so that both girls and boys, men and women feel connected to their history.
So what is meant by a Humanistic Passover celebration? For one thing, Humanistic Jews continue the tradition of telling the Exodus story, but they accept that it is a story, not history. Humanistic Jews also talk about the possible history behind the story, perhaps a small slave escape that grew in the retelling. The Humanistic Passover celebration emphasizes the themes of human freedom and dignity, the power of human beings to change their destiny, and the power of hope.
Events of the twentieth century record the courage of millions of Jews who left the land of their birth to escape persecution and seek freedom in Palestine and the land of Israel. Passover recognizes the struggles of millions of people to overcome oppression to achieve freedom and equality. Telling the story of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe to America, perhaps the largest Jewish Exodus ever, is a powerful part of a Humanistic Passover. Even more significant, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis in 1943 began on the first night of Passover; including a commemoration of this struggle provides a meaningful true story of a people’s fight for dignity, using their own power to control their destinies. The departure of Refuseniks from the former Soviet Union for Israel and America, the successes of the labor, Civil Rights and women’s movements in the twentieth century – all of these find a place in the Humanistic Haggada.