Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Great Day For Freedom

The whole passover thing hasn't had much meaning for me in a very long time.  I think the it's been 8 years since the last time I was forced to say somethnig at the Seder and a few since my dad has given up on asking me if I want to.  It's been yet another of the endless meaningless rituals that I have suffered through in my time on this earth.

Let me set the scene. 

We had one of my mother's gym friends and a neighbor, Mrs. Rosenrosen, along with her husband and her spinster daughter (who, by the way, is 21 years old).  By sad coincidence, all of Mr's Rosenrosen's other, married children found themselves at their respective in laws for the first days, leaving the poor tortured woman alone with just her husband and said Spinster.  My mother, always looking to garner favor with Mrs. Rosenrosen in her quest to be the "in" gym friend, was quick to step in and offer our table.

Mrs. Rosenrosen and Spinster show up about an hour early.  The boys are all in shul. My mother takes Mrs. Rosenroeon into the kitchen where they happily prepare for the next four hours and dish on all the gym gossip (for the thousanth time), leaving me and the Spinster to fend for ourselves.  Luckily, Spinster pulls out some sort of Jewish self help book, letting me off the hook. 

Seder starts as per usual, with my mother strategically putting me on her side of the table but as far away as possible, thus limiting her having to look at me during the course of the seder.  Seder starts - blah blah blah -drink wine, blah blah blah.  Clearly Spinster has been told the local gossip about me since she keeps taking quick, furtive glances at me with wide eyes that suggested she expected me to whip out a hundy and start snorting lines of coke off the table.  Then my youger sister says the four questions, followed by alot more blah blah blah.

At this point I'm usually so zoned out, im on another planet.  But I dunno - maybe it was the REALLY nice pre-holiday email I got from David or maybe it was the Spinster's snide looks - I couldnt help myself.  "Iv'e got something to say", I blurt out - surprising myself the most.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see my older brother covering a smirk with his hand.  I see my dad's look of surprise. And of course I hear my mother saying she has to go check on the food to make sure it's not burning.  God bless her, at least she's consistent.

This is what I said - in brief:

I wonder why the seder puts such an emphasis on the trappings of freedom.  We drink like free people, we recline like free people, we tell over the story, in great detail of the time before we were all free peoples. Why?  Don't we know we are free people?  So I discussed the difference between freedom and the illusion of freedom.  I spoke about how, ironically, the people of modern day Egypt marched for freedom, only to have power shifted from one leader to the military, who was always in charge anyway.  I spoke about all the seders through time when people were living in bad places - and how they had to feel free.  I wondered about Berlin in the mid 30's - how the Jews felt at their seders. 

Sometimes it isn't east to feel free.  In America we are lucky to have some level of true freedom.

"A place to stay
Enough to eat
Somewhere old heroes shuffle safely down the street

Where you can speak out loud
About your doubts and fears
And what's more no-one ever disappears
You never hear their standard issue kicking in your door.

You can relax on both sides of the tracks
And maniacs don't blow holes in bandsmen by remote control And everyone has recourse to the law
And no-one kills the children anymore.
And no one kills the children anymore

But we are required to be free on this night.  So the seder is chock full of reminders - hey you are free.  And if you don't feel it, do these things to feel it.

Well, that was it in a nutshell.  I said my peace and the seder rolled on.  There were no great flashes or anything.  My dad seemed happy, my mother put out.  Spinster seemed appaled I could manage to get out somethnig at the seder while she didn't have the stones to.  But I contributed on a topic I often think about.  Freedom. What it really means.  How it differs from the illusion of freedom.

Of course the funny thing about reality is it always sets in.  Like the next day when my mom made a snide comment about me wanting to impress Mrs. Rosenrosen and that's what it takes the get me to open my mouth at her seder.  Her seder.  Here I thought Passover was about all people joining in.  Well, that's life. 

When the crappy weather broke, I put on sneakers and a light jacket and took an extremely long walk.  I was away for hours, just thinking and clearing my head.  It didn't really work - my head is always in a state of jumble. 

But as I re-read David's email for the 400th time, I know that life aint so bad.

It's a great day for freedom/


  1. A couple of thoughts:

    1. If that girl is a spinster at 21, then I, at my great old age of 26, am a hag, or perhaps even an Undead. :P

    2.People aren't perfect in general, but it seems like you've fallen with a group of Jews entirely wrong for you. I've met people of extraordinary faith, and I assure you, you couldn't find kinder, more accepting, and understanding human beings.

    3. I think we're all dying to hear about David's email. Nu?!

  2. Please don't leave us hanging. Tell us what's happening with you and David!