Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
How to be a mensch at your Seder (or Easter Dinner) R.N.S
Pages from several rare haggadahs. Photos courtesy of David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University
(RNS) — With Passover and Easter approaching in just a few days, a palpable sense of dread can be felt around the nation. While we love our families dearly, how can we sit at the same table as that obnoxious uncle or unbearable sibling who — fill in the blank — 1) wears a MAGA cap in lieu of a yarmulke, 2) thinks President Trump is the 11th plague, 3) thinks Rep. Ilhan Omar is the devil incarnate or 4) thinks that corruption that is “all about the Benjamins” must be referring to Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Our divisions can sometimes be emphasized at Passover seders, where Jews traditionally tell the story of the Exodus through a simple but profound liturgy called the Haggadah. With over 4,000 versions of the seder narrative available, however, it’s possible to tell the same sacred story from nearly anywhere on the ideological spectrum.
We can choose to look at the Exodus story as a universalist liberation tale, one that would make any newbie socialist proud (“Let all those who are hungry come and eat”). Or it can be a populist revenge tour for all the wrongs brought upon the Jewish people from time immemorial (“Pour out Your wrath upon the nations that did not know You”).