A Few Seder Updates

We’re fast approaching Passover–it starts a bit before sunset this Friday, April 3. (If you’re concerned about precise times, there are plenty of places to check. I use the Crowded Road Shabbat Shalom app on my iPhone and iPad, but there are other choices.)

It’s not too Late to Roll Your Own

Don’t have a Hagaddah of your own? If you’re a traditional-text type of person–or have a lot of free time right now to edit something to make it humanistic–maybe visit Sefaria and check out their Haggadah. They’ve got the whole traditional text online, ready for you to pick some or all of its parts, create source sheets, etc.

I’m rolling our Haggadah for this year, because I’ve got lots of challenges to address. First, my goal is to keep things short because Secular Jew, Jr., is tough to engage in this kind of environment. Yes, of course, the Seder is a great sensory experience. But when the sensory experiences aren’t ones that work for your autistic child, you’ve got to make the experience as low-stress as possible in hopes that some of the story makes it in and so that we can be flexible and respond to any demonstrated interests, and that means leaving things a bit more fluid.

Second, I want to start from this prepared text to make a couple of different, interesting formats that we can come back to over the years with short supplements, and maybe mix up the pattern of the Seder a bit each year. At the moment, I’m thinking of doing an infographic format, a “board game” format, and maybe a “Cards Against Humanity”-type format to allow some flexibility and graphic interest. I imagine I’ll make some of this available online at some point, but this year is a dry run of the first stab at a text and reflections. I’ve mentioned this idea before. I’m really focused on keeping things relatively flexible so that as everyone changes around the table each year, we can make the experience interesting and meaningful each year. I don’t imagine having a permanently fixed text in a specific order in each respect, though some of the steps along the way will be the same (which maybe undoes some of the notion of seder, which in Hebrew means “order”).

I imagine after this is all over, I’ll debrief with Mrs. Secular Jew and Secular Jew’s Sister (we’re all about uncreative pseudonyms around here!) and tell you what did or didn’t work.

Remember to Take Your Supplements

If you already have a fixed text, Seder supplements can help keep things fresh. There are two I would draw your attention to. One–again, probably better for those who aren’t strictly humanist in orientation, but its god language is really quite minimal–is from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and is called the Black Lives Matter Haggadah (this goes to a Google Doc). So for those with a strong social justice orientation, you might want to consider this as your supplement this year. (I know one of the contributors to this personally–hi, Sarah!)

Another option is from Rabbi Jeffrey Falick (his blog is The Atheist Rabbi) at the Birmingham Temple for Humanistic Judaism in Farmington Hills, MI. His Passover greeting for this year is here, and he provides a link to a Google Doc that is a more “what does the archaeology tell us”-focused approach to the Maggid (story-telling) part of the Seder. (I also know Jeff, so, hi, Jeff!)

This Year in Indianapolis; Next Year, too, I Bet

In case you’re wondering what the menu is, I’ve only got three things determined:

  1. Alton Brown’s no-pot pot roast from his show, Good Eats
  2. Matzo ball soup with chicken and mandlen (you know, those little soup nuts)
  3. Kosher-for-Passover chocolate truffles with hazelnut or cappuccino filling

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure we need more, but I’ll probably feel guilty and make some kind of vegetable in addition to all the stuff that goes with the Seder. Though for my money, a bowl of haroset really ought to have me covered without any of this other stuff.

And I’d invite you to our Seder, but since I couldn’t guarantee what you’d find, maybe you’d be best to drop a line if you plan on trying to find us. (Also, we’re only doing second night Seder on Saturday, and we’re not kosher. And, of course, it’s a humanistic set of texts, so if you’re observant I promise you will not be yotzei if you come to our Seder.) I know, kol dikhfin yeitei v’yeikhol (“let all who are hungry come and eat”) and all that; but really, I’m not sure we’re your best bet.

If we don’t “see” each other before then, Hag Pesah Sameah to you and yours.

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

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.

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Slouching Towards Passover

Wait, that should be reclining. Well, then.

We are less than a month away from Passover. Sometimes people say a holiday is “so early this year” or “so late this year,” and rabbis often joke that really, the holiday is right on time.

Nevertheless, Passover seems so early this year. It isn’t, really–it’s not uncommon for the holiday to start in March–but so much of the year feels as though it’s run by in a rush. (I really need to put more reminders into my calendar. A rabbinical student shouldn’t feel so darned surprised by a holiday–especially since I attended a model Seder at Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation near Chicago during my Jewish Education seminar at IISHJ earlier this week.)

I’ll do a roundup of secular, cultural, and humanistic Jewish resources on Passover next week, but I’d be nothing if not extra lazy if I didn’t post links to prior Passover-themed posts on the blog. So, in the spirit of reduced laziness–whether slouching or reclining–here goes:

  • In There Are No Four Children and A Simple Kind of Man, I questioned the use of the Four Children as a way to categorize individuals with disabilities, or simply characterize as “bad” those who pose questions in ways we find uncomfortable.
  • In It’s a Trap!, I suggested that the Torah’s telling of the story of Joseph might be a sign that we need to take a harder look at how we use biblical texts and stories of our past to understand our own place in the world and in Jewish history. (It also has a Star Wars-themed animated GIF, if that’s a draw for you.)
  • In Leavening, I talked about the problems posed by long Passover Seders and the ever-expanding text of the Haggadah in light of the somewhat oral original conception of the Seder.
  • In Pass(ed)over, I talked about the flexibility afforded by Secular Humanistic Judaism in making a Passover that makes sense for each child.

I’ll post more next week, as Passover (which starts at sunset on April 3 this year) is soon to begin.

Garbled Graggers – Purim and Inclusion #JDAM15

I promised earlier that I would come back to Purim with a focus on inclusion–it is, after all, still Jewish Disability Awareness Month. Among the communally celebrated holidays, Purim may pose some of the very toughest challenges for inclusion. I’m going to try to put on my thinking hat here to look at what the challenges are to an inclusive Purim celebration. My purpose in this is not to suggest that every problem can be solved for every person in every place and at every time. Rather, I want to put in one place thoughts on how the traditional ways in which we celebrate Purim can work exclusion, and to prompt thought about how we might overcome some of those problems.

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A plate of hamantashen

A Purim Potpourri – Humanistic Resources for Purim

It’s mid-February, and time to start thinking about Purim! Purim starts March 4, 2015. (Don’t worry–if you’re here for Jewish Disability Awareness Month resources, I’ll be posting later this week about Purim in particular!)

If you’re a secular or humanistic Jew, what’s in it (and out there) for you?

As always–see if you can’t find a community to celebrate with. The Society for Humanistic Judaism and Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations both have pages on their websites to help you find communities that might be near you. Many of these groups hold Megillah readings, Purim carnivals, costume parties, and other events, which are for many the most fun Jewish celebrations of the year.

Both organizations maintain pages about the holidays and, again, Purim is no exception. Here’s SHJ’s page; this is CSJO’s page.

But wait–there’s more!  Continue reading

Photograph of the "heads" side of a penny, highly oxidized so that the copper has turned from red to green

Sometimes Bad Pennies Have Good Sides

To make sure I read a least a little Hebrew every day, I subscribe to a Kitzur Shulchan Arukh Yomi service. Each day (except for Shabbat and certain holidays), I receive a text message designating a passage from the Kitzur Shulchan Arukh, an abbreviated quick-reference guide to the everyday aspects of halakhah (Jewish law) as they might confront an observant Jew living in the mid-1800s in Eastern Europe. (In case you’re wondering, the messages double-up on the day before Shabbat or holidays with similar restrictions.)

I don’t ordinarily read the entire passage; I didn’t do so yesterday, either, but that is because the first couple of paragraphs caught my attention and I just didn’t move on from there. And I think that text provides some nice ideas for our own time.

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Picture of Yahrzeit Candle customarily lit on the anniversaries of loved ones' deaths.

Baruch Dayan Emet? Try Again.

Picture of Yahrzeit Candle customarily lit on the anniversaries of loved ones' deaths.

Yahrzeit Candle customarily lit on the anniversaries of loved ones’ deaths.

It is customary among many Jews when hearing of another’s bereavement to say “Baruch dayan emet,” which translates to “Blessed is the True Judge.” (That judge would be Yahweh.) It comes from the blessing that halakhah requires mourners to recite upon hearing of the death of certain relatives: baruch ata adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam, dayan ha-emet (“Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe, the True Judge”).

For some, giving a condolence with baruch dayan emet is a reflexive thing; for others, it’s a consciously Jewish response to bereavement.

It’s also a very problematic thing to say.

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“It’s a Trap!,” or, How the Torah’s Narrative Blames Joseph for the Israelites’ Slavery

Well, it’s been a bit of time since I did a post on the weekly parashah. Let’s break that trend.

This week we have Parshat Vayigash, the second-to-last Torah portion in Genesis. Vayigash starts with the story’s big reveal: Joseph yet lives. His brothers and father come to Egypt to live during the famine.

Hooray, right? Well…there’s this, in Genesis 47:19:

Buy us and our land with bread.

It turns out that the Joseph story puts the narrative’s enslavement of the Israelites at Joseph’s feet. Surprised? Read on.

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2 Maccabees in Greek

Humanistic Hanukkah!

Hanukkah starts in a couple of weeks. And so, too, will start (actually, this already started) the observations that Hanukkah is a minor holiday downplayed by the rabbis, etc.

Fine, that’s all true.

And, being the contrarian I am, I think we should play it up–especially in the Humanistic Jewish world.

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Time to Go Back to School

Hey, remember how the sky is falling for liberal Judaism? Remember how there is no easy answer to solve most problems?

Apparently, we’ve been wrong about all that. If we just send kids to Jewish day schools, that’s it! That solves the problem!

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