To all my Madlik friends, let me take this opportunity to wish you a liberating Passover. In preparing for the Seder, I found myself going over some previous posts, for many of which I had forgotten the punch-lines. I’m happy to share below (scroll down to bottom) on the Wise and Evil Son and on Pour out Your Wrath.
Since my daughter is, please God getting married this summer, I also share below an intro to kiddush this year on Shabbat/Yom Tov. Feel free to share with other parents and couples in Wedding Planner mode.
The Seders are special this year because they occur on Shabbat. In the special kiddush that we recite we note the difference between the holiness of Shabbat and the holiness of the Festival.
As Rabbi Sachs writes:
The two forms of holiness — Shabbat and festivals – are different. Shabbat represents creation. The festivals represent redemption. Shabbat is about the presence of God in nature. The festivals are about the presence of God history. Accordingly Shabbat was declared holy by God Himself at the culmination of creation. God “blessed the seventh day and declared it holy” (Gen. 2:3). The festivals, by contrast, are sanctiﬁed by the Jewish people through their determination of the calendar – just as redemption takes place in history when we act in partnership with God. Thus on Shabbat we end the Kiddush by saying Mekadesh haShabbat, meaning that it is God who sanctifies Shabbat; but on festivals we say Mekadesh Yis’rael vehazemanim, meaning, “God sanctifies Israel, and Israel in turn sanctiﬁes time.” Shabbat is holiness “from above to below.” The festivals are holiness “from below to above.”
Rabbi Sachs could have added, that the three biblical words for festival all imply a meeting, a journey, a dating-dance or pilgrimage. Moed is a meeting as in the Ohel Moed; the moveable tabernacle in the desert. Regel as in the Shelosha Regalim (the Three Pilgrimage Festivals) literally means foot and Hag as in Hag Sameach comes from the same root as the Arabic word for the Haj, a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage. Hag, comes from חָגַג châgag; to move in a circle, to march in a sacred procession, to observe a festival; by implication, to be giddy:—celebrate, leap, dance, reel to and fro.
The only other time we make such a wonderful kiddush is under the wedding Huppah when we sanctify the wine twice. The marriage ceremony is called Kedushin – kiddush in the plural. Successful marriages contain this double entendre.
According to many traditions, marriages are made in heaven. There is even a Midrash that claims that God stays busy after creating the world by matchmaking. This is the kiddushin of the Sabbath. When two kindred souls (separated before birth or at the foot of Sinai) find each other and re-unite.
But the second kiddushin is equally significant and it is a reciprocal meeting, it includes happenstance and seizing of the moment, it contains the mating dance of a first date. It is a lifelong journey together, step by step on a-once-in-a-life-time heartfelt yet at the same time giddy pilgrimage. This is a marriage that grows stronger and flourishes over time.
It is these two miracles and possibilities of holiness that we celebrate when Shabbat and Festival coincide and which we shall all celebrate under the movable tabernacle called a Huppah in the near future!
Oh… and did I mention that when a festival falls on the Shabbat you add LOVE (b’Ahava).
Jerusalem is and will always be the capital of Israel – my thoughts.
I despise the concept of Intersectionality, which at its core holds that if you believe in one thing you must believe in another. For example: If you object to the discrimination of people based on sexual preference and you support LGBT rights then you must also support the delegitimization of all Israelis as oppressors and colonialists… and support BDS.
As a student of the history of ideas, nothing could be more regressive and repressive than suggesting that if you hold one truth, you must hold another. Innovation occurs not only when new ideas are conceived but also when existing ideas are combined in novel ways. I love nothing more than when women’s rights groups include both pro choice and pro life feminists. I dream of the day when fundamentalists embrace environmentalism and global warming because, after-all, God created the world and left us humans as custodians.
Which brings me to Jerusalem, the de facto and historical capital of Israel.
Here is something that both those Jews and Israelis on the right and on the left can and should agree upon. We should savor such opportunities.
Those of us on the left (I am guilty as charged) should welcome the opportunity to join all informed Jews and Israelis in acknowledging the historical and unbroken ties of the Jewish people to Jerusalem as our capital. As in… Next Year in rebuilt Jerusalem… ירושלים הבנויה (not necessarily… greater Jerusalem).
The fact that Trump has spoken this truth is actually a blessing in disguise since it sugar-coats this truth to our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the most light-handed way possible. Trump is not known for speaking the truth, so when he does speak the truth (even a broken clock is right twice a day) it is arguably easier to swallow.
We in the West, on the left and the Palestinian leadership do our Palestinian brothers and sisters no favor by reinforcing an unattainable belief that a united Jerusalem will be the capital of the Palestinian State.
West Jerusalem was liberated by the Jewish State of Israel in the 1948 war initiated by the surrounding Arab States and supported by the indigenous Arab population (aka the Palestinians), and is not up for negotiation as long as the State of Israel exists.
There are other truths that we (Jews and Israelis on both the right and left) can and should embrace.
Notwithstanding the proclamations of another institution which has a problem with the truth (UNESCO), the Temple Mount was first and foremost…. the Ancient Hebrew’s Temple Mount. The fact that from time immemorial conquest of a foreign nation entailed the conquerer erecting their Temple on the ruins of the vanquished’ temple erases historical truth no more than does the piss of a dog marking territory previously inhabited by a prior canine.
The Jewish claim to the Temple Mount, and other historical facts are not negotiable. As far as I am concerned the Muslims are welcome to keep their mosque on the Temple Mount and maintain the status quo as long as they respect and protect the right of all religions to pray there (which, regrettably, they don’t.. another un-truth).
So does truth-telling destroy the non-existent peace process? Or should we ask whether treating our Palestinian brothers and sisters as children who cannot handle the truth destroys any chance for compromise and realism?
Does truth-telling undermine the honest-broker status of the West? Or should we ask whether propping up a Palestinian leadership which profits from and feeds it’s people ahistorical and unattainable untruths promotes conflict resolution?
I can say and ask all of the above and still believe in a Two-State Solution and mourn the injustice (as in אי צדק) of the Occupation. So much for Intersectionality…..
[Sorry for the picture, but it got your attention.]
or go to the iTunes store and subscribe to the madlik podcast here.
a cathedral in time – a tabernacle in space
Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time. Unlike the spaceminded man to whom time is unvaried, iterative, homogeneous, to whom all hours are alike, qualityless, empty shells, the Bible senses the diversified character of time. There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious.
Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn; a shrine that even apostasy cannot easily obliterate: the Day of Atonement. According to the ancient rabbis, it is not the observance of the Day of Atonement, but the Day itself, the “essence of the Day,” which, with man’s repentance, atones for the sins of man.
Note: Maimonides, Laws of Repentance 1:3
The essence of Yom Kippur brings attonement for thos who repent as it says: “For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD. Leviticus 16:30
כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם עצמו של יום הכיפורים מכפר לשבים שנאמר
Jewish ritual may be characterized as the art of significant forms in time, as architecture of time. Most of its observances–the Sabbath, the New Moon, the festivals, the Sabbatical and the Jubilee year–depend on a certain hour of the day or season of the year. It is, for example, the evening, morning, or afternoon that brings with it the call to prayer. The main themes of faith lie in the realm of time. We remember the day of the exodus from Egypt, the day when Israel stood at Sinai; and our Messianic hope is the expectation of a day, of the end of days.
Moed – Holiday
Ohel Moed – Ten of Meeting
In the Bible, words are employed with exquisite care, particularly those which, like pillars of fire, lead the way in the far flung system of the biblical world of meaning. One of the most distinguished words in the Bible is the word kadosh, holy; a word which more than any other is representative of the mystery and majesty of the divine. Now what was the first holy object in the history of the world? Was it a mountain? Was it an altar? It is, indeed, a unique occasion at which the distinguished word kadosh is used for the first time: in the Book of Genesis at the end of the story of creation. How extremely significant is the fact that it is applied to time: “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” There is no reference in the record of creation to any object in space that would be endowed with the quality of holiness.
This is a radical departure from accustomed religious thinking. The mythical mind would expect that, after heaven and earth have been established, God would create a holy place–a holy mountain or a holy spring–whereupon a sanctuary is to be established. Yet it seems as if to the Bible it is holiness in time, the Sabbath, which comes first. When history began, there was only one holiness in the world, holiness in time. When at Sinai the word of God was about to be voiced, a call for holiness in man was proclaimed: “Thou shalt be unto me a holy people.” It was only after the people had succumbed to the temptation of worshipping a thing, a golden calf, that the erection of a Tabernacle, of holiness in space, was commanded.
The sanctity of time came first, the sanctity of man came second, and the sanctity of space last. Time was hallowed by God; space, the Tabernacle, was consecrated by Moses. While the festivals celebrate events that happened in time, the date of the month assigned for each festival in the calendar is determined by the life in nature. Passover and the Feast of Booths [Sukkot], for example, coincide with the full moon, and the date of all festivals is a day in the month, and the month is a reflection of what goes on periodically in the realm of nature, since the Jewish month begins with the new moon, with the reappearance of the lunar crescent in the evening sky. In contrast, the Sabbath is entirely independent of the month and unrelated to the moon. Its date is not determined by any event in nature, such as the new moon, but by the act of creation. Thus the essence of the Sabbath is completely detached from the world of space. The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.
The Sabbath (FSG Classics) Paperback – July 28, 2005 by Abraham Joshua Heschel
After the destruction of the Second Temple there … was no High Priest, no sacrifice, no divine fire, no Levites singing praises or crowds thronging the precincts of Jerusalem and filling the Temple Mount. Above all there was no Yom Kippur ritual through which the people could find forgiveness.
It was then that a transformation took place that must constitute one of the great creative responses to tragedy in history. Tradition has cast Rabbi Akiva in the role of the savior of hope. The Mishna in Yoma, the tractate dedicated to Yom Kippur, tells us in effect that Rabbi Akiva could see a new possibility of atonement even in the absence of a High Priest and a Temple. God Himself would purify His people without the need for an intermediary. Even ordinary Jews could, as it were, come face to face with the Shekhina, the Divine Presence. They needed no one else to apologize for them. The drama that once took place in the Temple could now take place in the human heart. Yom Kippur was saved. It is not too much to say that Jewish faith was saved.
Every synagogue became a fragment of the Temple. Every prayer became a sacrifice. Every Jew became a kind of priest, offering God not an animal but instead the gathered shards of a broken heart. For if God was the God of everywhere, He could be encountered anywhere. And if there were places from which He seemed distant,then time could substitute for place. “Seek God where He is’ to be found, call on Him’ where He is close” (Is. 55:6) -— this, said the sages, refers to the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh HaShana to Yom Kippur (Yevamot 105a). Holy days became the surrogate for holy spaces. Yom Kippur became the Jerusalem of time, the holy city of the Jewish soul.
Koren Sacks Yom Kippur Mahzor (Hebrew and English) Hardcover – August 15, 2012 by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks pp xv-xvi
During Sukkot, we add a prayer: “May the All Merciful establish (raise) for us the fallen Sukkah of David”
הרחמן הוא יקים לנו את סוכת דוד הנופלת
The notion of the “fallen Sukkah” come from the prophet Amos (9:11)
In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof, and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old;
From the first day of Elul until the last day of Sukkot we read Psalm 27 every day.
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to behold the graciousness of the LORD, and to visit early in His temple. or He concealeth me in His pavilion (lit. Sukkah) in the day of evil;
He hideth me in the covert of His tent; He lifteth me up upon a rock.
This melody, written by Israel Katz. See The Chazzan’s Tisch here and Velveteen Rabbi here for an Hebrew/English version and some background into Israel Katz the composer. Here’s the track I play on the podcast 1:10 seconds in and available on iTunes here
Cho Rachman (Rebuilt) composed and sung by Shlomo Carlebach on his 4th LP, In The Palace Of The King (Vanguard, 1965) and available on Amazon here.
Tzvi Livni 1952, in this zionist renderings of the four children, the Wicked child is the financier-speculator in the shirt and tie, dollar bills creeping out of his shirt “What is all this ‘avodah’ to you?” is reinterpreted. While “avodah” in the traditional Haggadah refers to “services,” the “cultic” rites of the seder, here it is translated as pioneering “agricultural” work, of making the desert bloom along with the military defense of the land represented by the towers. In other Haggadot, it is the Labour-loving Socialist who is portrayed as the Evil son.
Siegmund Forst, USA 1959 many American Haggadahs of the 50’s and 60’s save the Wicked child’s place to the communist cousin.
Poland 1939 – the wicked figure is a middle-aged bourgeois Jew dressed to show off his aspirations to Western European modernity. The wicked figure sports a riding crop, a cigarette with cigarette holder, and a stylish monocle. He is dressed in a hunting outfit with a jaunty Tyrollian hat with a feather, an ascot around his neck, silk gloves and sharp spurs on his leather boots. His stance is self-confident, self-contained and arrogant
Leon David Israel, 1920 The Boxer as Rasha, 1920, illustrated by Lola The wicked child is a new kind of soldier. The culture of the naked physique, of sports, of the aggressive boxer is contrasted with a middle class seated scholar with a tie, glasses and a book. The passivity and introspection of the intellectual whose head is supported by his arm reflects the defensive status of traditional Jewish culture, when contrasted with the rise of American sports and perhaps contemporary Zionist youth movements that praised the values of the body. For example, two in a series of great Jewish boxers of this era were “Battling Levinsky” (nee Barney Lebrowitz, light heavy weight, 1916-1920) and Al McCoy (see Albert Rudolph, middle weight, 1914-1917)
Wicked son as Roman Gladiator seems to have been a popular theme .. here’s a detail from a Austrian/German Passover Towel, circa 1900, embroidered with the image of four sons that I recently purchased at Auction in Westport, CT.
But what I have never seen, is where the evil son, besides excluding himself from the other participants, is portrayed as an ostensibly observant Jew or an otherwise good guy with a fatal flaw.
Here is the text of the Evil son:
What does the evil [son] say? “‘What is this worship to you?’ (Exodus 12:26)” ‘To you’ and not ‘to him.’ And since he excluded himself from the collective, he denied a principle [of the Jewish faith]. And accordingly, you will blunt his teeth and say to him, “‘For the sake of this, did the Lord do [this] for me in my going out of Egypt’ (Exodus 13:8).” ‘For me’ and not ‘for him.’ If he had been there, he would not have been saved.
The standard interpretation and corresponding image of the evil son is of the non-believer who separates himself from the Jewish community. As Yossi Klein Halevi recently pointed out in a wonderful blog post, what indicts the evil son is not that he does not believe, but that he separates himself from the Jewish people.
“the Hagaddah’s definition of Jewish heresy offers us a precise definition of Jewish identity. The “evil child” of the Hagaddah refers to the Jewish people as “you” rather than “us.” Unlike Christianity and Islam, say, where heresy is the rejection of belief, for Judaism heresy is self-exclusion from the community.”
Halevi argues that it is not the wicked son’s lack of belief that damns him, but his self-exclusion. It’s a great blog post and important message… but Halevi nonetheless joins traditional commentators in assuming that the wicked son is a non-believer or non-observant.
But since, especially during the seder, every question is on the table, let me ask why don’t we assume that the evil son is in all other ways blameless and outstanding? Who says he’s not a believer? And while I’m at it…. Why do we assume that that the community which this son excludes himself from …. is so virtuous?
Any reading of the Hebrew Bible will reveal the generation of the Exodus with a lot left to be desired. They murmured, complained and suffered from congenial stiffening of the neck. The truth is, even a cursory reading of the later prophets paint a picture of a Jewish People who stumbled and limped (ed the Hebrew word for lame is Pisayach פִּסֵחַ – same root as Pesach) a lot more than handled themselves in an upright fashion.
So here’s an image that I invite you to imagine for the wicked son. He’s a holier-than-thou self-righteous religious zealot…. beard, black hat and peyyot. To be fair, maybe he’s an uncompromising liberal political activist who wishes to delegitimize the State of Israel or alternatively a religious nationalist settler who questions a secular Israeli’s connection and commitment to the Land. You probably could add a few more zealots of your own, but you get the idea.
Here are my alternative optics for the evil son.
This Haredi guy shows up at your seder and indignantly questions your right to celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. “What could these laws and texts possibly mean to an Am HaAretz and Sabbath desecrator like you? You, who accept same-sex marriage, support egalitarian prayer at our holy sites and convert any non-Jew who walks in the door.”
This child of the radical Left storms into the Seder screaming “How dare you celebrate liberation and workers’s rights. How dare you Passover-wash your ties to Wall Street and your support for the Occupation and repression of Palestinians in Israel. This holiday of liberation means nothing to you!”
Maybe this child is a National Religious Settler who barges into our Seder and questions our right to sing Next Year in Jerusalem, a united Jerusalem, and laughs as we squeam when asking God to take vengeance on our enemies and conquer the land.
All of these caricatures are evil, not only, as Halevi argues, because they seperate from our community, but also, I argue, because they separate from our history and the crooked timber of our humanity.
These Evil children idealize the past at the expense of simplifying the present and delegitimizing a diverse group of people caught up in a complex world. According to our traditions, those who left Egypt were a mixed lot (ערב רב) and we remain a mixed lot, struggling to survive in a tough environment and complicated, complex and not always solvable problems. Those who left Egypt limped and complained and suffered from PTS, as do we.
The haggadah instructs us to “blunt his teeth” (הַקְהֵה אֶת שִׁנָּיו) ….. a strange phrase which seems to legitimize corporal punishment. In fact setting teeth on edge as the result of sour grapes planted by ones parents is short-hand for saying. Hey buddy, we all suffer the sins of our parents, we all have baggage, we are all refugees and victims. Non of our narratives are pure, non of our texts and rituals can be sanitized in accordance with your idealized version of progress. In fact sour grapes of our forebears causing their children to wince might be the seminal message of the Seder.
The haggadah itself is an inelegantly edited compendium of conflicting texts and our liberation story, like the story of any liberation, whether national or personal … is messier than we’d like to admit.
Thus said Ezekiel 18 speaking of idyllic future times:
What mean ye, that ye use this proverb in the land of Israel, saying: The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. … As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, committed robbery on his brother, and did that which is not good among his people, behold, he dieth for his iniquity. Yet say ye: Why doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father with him? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all My statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father with him, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son with him; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
The Rabbis of the Haggadah are saying that there might come a time in the idyllic future where this proverb might not hold true…. A time that Ezekiel imagines where children do not carry the baggage left to them by their forebears and the shortcomings of their less enlightened peers do not slow them down, but… and here’s the message of the Haggadah… in the meantime our teeth still sting from the sour grapes planted by our parents. In the meantime, separating ourselves from our dirty past and complicated present, is not a luxury, is not idealism.. it is a sin, and it takes you off the stage.
While I have not found other sources for my interpretation, thanks to Sefira I did find a commentary called (very appropriately) Yismach Yisrael (rejoice Israel) which, while not making the evil son into a misguided idealist, does understand his question as questioning the bone fides and deservedness of the participants in the seder and the original generation of the exodus to participate in such a lofty mission.
The wicked one asks according to his wickedness: “What is this service for you?” (Page 67b) The wicked person argues that we do not deserve to be redeemed so all our efforts in performing these acts of divine service are a waste of time. Even worse, we are so sinful that these actions are really self-serving and not for the sake of God. The wicked person says that we perform them for you and not for Him! We answer the wicked person by saying that “God did this for me” because of my trust and faith in Him. God redeemed us from Egypt even though we were immersed in the forty-nine levels of impurity and every aspect of our being was in exile. However, because we displayed real trust in God we were redeemed from Egypt even earlier then we were supposed to be redeemed. Had the wicked person been in Egypt he would not have merited this early redemption because he lacked trust in God. (Yismach Yisrael on Pesach Haggadah p 51)
Maybe that’s a more positive answer that we can give the self-righteous evil son.. and by extension ourselves. Yes, we are the product of the mud from which we grew and yes, we sink or swim together, but if we have faith… blind as it is, that there is a spark of the divine in ALL of us, then by the grace of God, maybe together we can be redeemed…