Tuesday this goy was invited to a Seder dinner, as a family tries to comprehend their own tradition and its meaning in their own lives, in the reality show called daily life, with the movement in the story – the movement in the story of Passover and Jews. What did it mean, this Jewish identity? With your DNA, within this creation, you were related to Him, in your image and likeness?
How can you know God, without understanding Judaism? Tuesday night I learned about the customs of a Seder dinner, in removing all leaven from a home – and maybe all the other things which inflate the egos in the rest of the year – in preparation for this day. That preparation had taken the host’s father seven days, in the old days, in removing the leaven from his home. Recognizing an underlying spirituality, about the ego in the story of Moses, about being Chosen People – perhaps because of the issues of inflation and bubbles of our times – I recognized the underlying spirituality about Chosen People, taming their egos, sharing so much with the rest of the world. Part of the ritual of the dinner was to read of the origin of Jewish women and people “like us,” not, as told in Greek myth or like the story of Romulus and Remus in Rome, as a people descended from on high. From the start, there was this sprinkled blood on the doorstep, as you let your God into your home … or in this case, a guest had dropped a bottle of red wine there, unexpectedly. When you married within the culture, with a tradition of blood in animal sacrifice.
With the always present issue of blood, in a living arrangement, as you marry someone within your tradition and passed a tradition on. You come to realize the continued existence of the tradition – your tradition – was up to you. As you made the discovery that the institution was somehow you. When you had somehow become the school, the temple…. the Chosen. You discovered the social meaning, in the age of social networking, when the conflict in the story was over more than shared belief, but shared blood.
The conflict in the story. With all of the movement in the stories comes the fear. And the primary fear was over fertility. Every fear concerning the next generation, about survival… and maybe the survival of tradition. Like the Passover story. When you go in Exodus, a bit uncertain when it came to your direction, after four hundred and some years in Egypt, and trying to get traction in the sand. In a certain involuntary cognitive state, and with high emotions over the intense unfairness in a system of slavery. But commanded with your life to know your God. With all the unknowns about would happen to the tradition, being caught in the desert. And all the emotions over survival… In Exodus.
The emotions of life over survival. Over the Promise Land, and your loved ones. In the Age of Divorce. Surrounded by other clans, which had such difficulty with concepts of union, in the your present day lives. And the primary fear was over fertility. In the earlier chapter.
Sarai. The laughter of Sarai, who needed a new name after the circumcision of Abram, in a scene which only Bob Newhart could try to explain. Over the phone. So because I always wanted to be a comedy writer:
Abraham, coming home after a long day at work, explaining circumcision to Sarah, at the age of 99 or 100. Like a Bob Newhart script, as Abram undresses.
“Uh, Abram. What’s eating you? You are moving kinda slow.”
“Well, I had minor surgery for something that had been causing me some trouble. “
“What is this word ‘surgery?’
“Well, I went under the knife.’
“Just outside Hebron. Away from the crowd. In a need for privacy.”
“No…I mean WHERE. Oh my God…. who did this to you?”
“I… um…. got circumcised yesterday.”
“You did what?”
“I am calling it a circumcision.”
“Really? Are you crazy? And who exactly did this for you?”
“I did it myself.”
“You? You? You can’t even fix the latrine. Why, in God’s name, did you do that? You know, we are gonna need new names after this, Abram. Both of us. New names.”
There had to be a reason for Sarai’s infertilty…and Abram thought it was due to him? So with a certain pagan view of the world, he took extreme measures? Maybe to remove something that was coming between him and his wife. To live and communicate now unconditionally. When you knew something and wanted to leave to the world this knowledge. The knowledge that took a lifetime to acquire. When something had been missing. Maybe when you were fertile. Maybe missing in your own childhood, or in your own neighbors. When something had been missing, and the plan then was to try it over. This time with maybe some spiritual direction. And maybe change, Norman Borlaug-like, the world.
The developing bonds. The lifelong challenge in the bond of a relationship. With the anguish that came to those who spent time trying to know, taking it to the deepest level within. And then creating something out of that knowledge. Before you died. Stories about the different levels of comfort, in relationship. When you wake up one day and hear that your wife wanted more in the relationship? And you did not have a clue what the heck she meant.
The movement in the unsettling stories. About Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The stories about the different levels of comfort, in relationship. Emotional stories about life and death. Over the Promise Land, and your loved ones. Stories generation after generation about fertility,about leaving and coming back, and death. Did you ever note the ages of Adam, Noah, or Seth? To recognize the anguish which came out of the search for God, and the attempt to get comfortable with each other. For eternity. When prophets climbed mountains, with all of the emotions in a relationship. Or in one dimensional relationships. Over the quality of union. Or not. When perhaps God had not been ready quite yet to be around Adam, Noah, Seth, forever.
Union. Enhancing connectedness. To this world. Developing a common point of view. Union. When there had been something missing in the union, if not my life. About an overall aim of the relationship, with a delicate balance between separate identity and a connectedness– when the going gets rough, to stay together.
Fertility. The emotions. Fear. Death. God. Coming to an acceptance of God, like the acceptance level a couple reaches with each other. “Lord, let me get on with my business. Because I am not fertile.”
And so the fertility of Sarah, at the age of 89 or 90. “Laughing” was the meaning of the name of her first born son. Like Eve, nothing ever belonged to Sarah of this creation until she had kids. And so the battle within for any woman, over pride, when she was yet to have kids, with a man who wanted the the old world back, after the banishment.
Like a nomad, navigating closeness, with a degree of cognitive love, beyond the involuntary cognitive and emotional state of intense romantic desire, when you were just for the most part unconscious … or really just trying to figure it all out. With American men too often just numb. When those neurons just did not feel the things we were supposed to, about the hard questions, beyond the involuntary cognitive and emotional state of intense romantic desire. For men too often just numb, about the hard questions, like greed. All men had it … some women. People throughout the world wanted to live like I had lived, like they saw in the movies. Greed fueled by media, for money and modern conveniences. Where It seemed there was not enough to be fairly divided.
SO after the public spectacle, for Eve and the apple, there was need for a wider audience. For Eve and her wider perspective about creation? Was there a need all along she felt to get out of the Garden? When nothing ever belonged to you of this creation until you had you firstborn child?
Passover. The unsettling story really more about the descendants of Sarai. With all of the work that went into this commemoration. The discomfort in the story about fertility. With the developing concept of sacrifice, of the best animal of the flock. Concepts over shared blood. Maybe why the blood of animals had been used in worship. To hear the story in Exodus, one year later, where the lamb was sacrificed and the people were to eat, “in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.”
Keeping kosher. The anguish of keeping kosher. To recall the time during those four hundred and some years when virtually every aspect of daily life was connected to your life being a slave. With the sprinkled blood on the doorstep, when you let your God into your home. When you tried to keep things somehow sacred. With the always present blood, and issues of orders, when you marry someone within your tradition. With an origin of Jewish people “like us,” not, as told in Greek myth or like the story of Romulus and Remus in Rome, as a people descended from on high. With the tradition of blood in animal sacrifice, the so very personal commemoration of Passover as a vehicle to celebrate the very nature of God, and His work in the world. Through fertility.. . shared.
With all of the anguish. Maybe like childbirth. Or in the 613 orders related to keeping kosher. With all of the dishes and pots and pans. The sacrifice that comes trying to maintain a tradition. With a certain amount of discomfort if not pain. When you work all week and came home to prepare the Seder. The anguish in being Chosen People, generation after generation.
Passing it on. The work of deliverance of the next generation. Nietsche wrote that the meaning in life, the memory of loved ones, is conveyed only through real stories about palpable heart-beating pain. Stories of deep love, of deep hate, with layers of suffering that would lie in memory forever. Great literature of a civilization was based upon such stories carrying a people, somewhere.
The unstated part of Passover, in the setting, if you were lucky enough to have inherited a tradition, is in this unsettling.The Call to leave!
The carrying, of a people, like the ones you were related to by blood. Measuring the progress, one generation to the next. Passover was the paramount generational thing, THE family thing, not just a family thing. In the beginning. The movement in the great unsettling story. With all of the first born dead, and the blood on the doorstep saved you. On the original Passover. After Moses asked the the Pharaoh, at the Lord’s stated request. “Let my people go to worship me.” With all of the firstborn dead, concerned about the unraveling of the next generation – the one which seemed to be losing hope, or looking to the identity of the dominant culture, like in the Egyptian world.
For Chosen People, and the fertility part of the story. Generation after generation, in stories about this inheritance, carrying a family somewhere — with a way of life –not so much as protection from the plagues, but about the solemnity of worship. To be deeply moved by worship by this God to whom you somehow were related. When children ask questions, to get things moving. To try and do right, generation after generation. With a certain anguish over knowing God. And to then try and do right, in virtually every aspect of daily life. Somehow carrying a burden of God, in a living tradition, with food. With a degree of anguish in being Chosen People, in trying to remain kosher, in the ever changing world. Not a story of survival, Passover was the story of freedom and salvation: how a people, in a story of first-borns for a people whose identity was repeated in the story of the first born sons of Abraham, of Isaac, were saved for history.
Passover. “And you shall tell your child,” …..about Passover and then this issue of inheritance. The reason why this night is different. Looking for meaning in it all.
The underlying tempo of movement, in all of these sacred stories, of the unsettling movement toward a freedom potentially as vast as all the stars in the solar system, against a conspiracy of the systems of the world they were born into. Children gradually learning to recognize a shame in living unquestioning lives. With memory of Passover conveying only through the personal anguish, the reason your were different. At one home defining Passover, the significance of a visible God and the significance – in bloodlines- of a Chosen People, to their God. And in the unsettling sacrifices freely given to this God.
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Aseret Yemei Teshuvah