A Passover Panoply

Passover is fast approaching. Last week I left you some links to posts on the blog that were on Passover-related themes. Today, let’s take a look at some Passover resources for the humanist and secularist Jewish set.

A photograph of Shmura Matzo - matzo baked specifically to stringent Jewish legal guidelines

Shmura Matzo – Creative Commons Licensed Image

As always, take a look in your area to see whether there’s a community you might be able to celebrate with. Just as with other streams of Judaism, Secular Humanistic Jewish and secular and cultural Jewish communities hold community-wide Seders or can provide a possible connection for you to attend a Seder in someone’s home. And, of course, the Society for Humanistic Judaism and the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations also have discussions on the meanings, symbols, and history of the holiday.

Rabbi Adam Chalom’s blog, Shalom from Rabbi Chalom, has two blog posts of special interest for Passover: Commemorating Fiction: Passover Complications, and Preparing for a Humanistic Passover.  The second of these itself has many resources for you to look at, and the first explores what it means to celebrate Passover when we really don’t think there was an Exodus–and if there was, it wasn’t as described in the Torah and rabbinic tradition.

Machar, the Washington, D.C.-area humanistic Jewish congregation, has a page about Passover on its site, which includes a link to a PDF of a Haggadah used by the congregation in the past. So, too, does the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Fairfield County (CT). (And really, you can pull up tons of stuff from your internet search engine of choice, right?)

As with many other groups, secular, cultural, and humanistic Jews have lots of possible choices for a Haggadah. The Society for Humanistic Judaism’s online store has lots of options to choose from. (I particularly like Rabbi Peter Schweitzer’s The Liberated Haggadah, and wish it were more readily available.) The CSJO’s online store also has several Haggadot to choose from, and it’s definitely worth taking a look and finding something you like.

As I’ve discussed before on the blog, the Seder is only recently the heavily programmed thing we have today. More than that, the discussions in the Talmud make it clear that what texts were recited, what items were used, and what order was followed during the Seder were all still moving targets for much of the first millennium of the common era. These were primarily oral recitations, after all: the Talmud reports that Rav Sheshet, a blind rabbi, was able to lead the Seder himself. (See, e.g., b. Pesahim 116b.)

All of this is to say that simply having a text does not mean should limit yourself to the text. One frequent part of many Seders is to include a “modern” Ten Plagues, identifying plagues we would like to see eradicated in our own time. Many of the freely available lists of modern Plagues are secular in nature and appropriate for a secular or humanistic celebration of Passover. (Yet again, Google or another search engine will be your friend in finding these; you may even find lists of Plagues in your local Jewish community newspaper.)

But having a text doesn’t mean you need to engage in rote recitation of the text. Think about the things you would find meaningful or educational and do those things. That’s especially important when kids are involved, since attention spans can be short and the need to move around and participate may be hard to channel at times.

Remember Judaism has only ever been what Jews have made it, and your Jewishness is what you make of it, too. That’s true for Passover, too.