Passover began Monday at sunset with the first of two Passover Seders — the word means order but it’s a service performed at the dinner table because it isn’t Jewish if it doesn’t include food.
Beth El Binah, Dallas’ LGBT Jewish synagogue, holds its congregational Seder tonight. It’s my favorite holiday, but you can’t do something Jewish without complaining so here goes.
The holiday, the most important festival on the Jewish calendar after the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. Lots of great gay themes in Passover — the end of slavery and oppression are what the festival celebrates.
But here’s where me and Passover have a little bit of a problem.
After bringing 10 plagues on Egypt because pharaoh wouldn’t let God’s people go, pharaoh suddenly relents and the Jews have just hours to get the hell out of there. They have no time to bake bread so they take the dough with them, so the story goes.
Apparently, they had plenty of time to make dough, just not enough time to add yeast. How long does it take to open a couple of packages of yeast and mix it in?
So because someone screwed up the bread recipe before leaving, Jews eat tasteless flat bread called matzo for eight days. Apparently, there was plenty of time to cut matza into perfect squares and score it so it breaks perfectly.
Also, before leaving, the only wine they apparently had enough time to buy was Manischewitz. OK, so they were in a hurry and stopped off at the 7-11. You’d think they’d stop at Sigel’s — Jewish owned with a nicer assortment.
One of those plagues is where the holiday gets its name. The 10th plague was the death of the first born. Jews marked their doors with lamb’s blood and the angel of death passed over their houses, taking only the first born of Egyptians. I suppose they used that name because it was a better name for a holiday than Locusts or Blood.
So the Jews hightailed it out of Giza and got to the Red Sea. Charlton Heston as Moses lifted his rifle and God parted the waters.
OK, so I can accept the constipation the matzo causes. I can drink the crappy wine. But this parting-the-sea thing: First of all, how did they get across the Nile without the hocus pocus? The pyramids are all on the west side of the river and Israel’s to the east. But they did. And although they needed to cross the Nile, they really didn’t need to cross the Red Sea.
The Jews got to Egypt taking the Mediterranean coastal route. Tel Aviv to Cairo is about the same distance as Dallas to Houston — just a few days by camel. At the time there was no Suez Canal and they had no problem getting there nice and dry by land.
So what’s with the theatrics to get the hell out? Walk around the Red Sea.
And once they cross the sea, where do they head? Mount Sinai (the mountain, not the hospital).
Because of droughts and trade, people went back and forth between Canaan and Egypt frequently. But they took the direct-but-scenic, flat, northern coastal route.
Maybe Moses was just being a gay guy refusing to stop for directions, but he led the Jews through the mountainous, southern Sinai. Makes no sense. When I go to Houston, I ride my camel down I-45. I don’t go via the Pecos.
And one more thing. We open the Seder by asking the Four Questions:
Why is this night different than all other nights?
Why on all other nights do we eat either bread or matzo, but on this night we only eat matzo?
Why on all other nights do we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?
Why on all other nights do we not dip [food] even once, but on this night we dip twice?
Whyon all other nights do we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we eat in a reclining position?
Now am I the only one who sees the problem here? That’s five questions, not four. But it’s called The Four Questions.
The Passover story ends with Jews attaining freedom but before getting to Mount Sinai and receiving the Ten Commandments. That’s celebrated on Shavuot, which takes place 49 days after Passover’s over. More kvetching then.
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