April 7th, 2004

MacCauley

Passover Seder

Can there be a seder not associated with Passover? I don't know. I am woefully ignorant of Jewish tradition and use of language. For all I know seder is another word for supper.

Monday night I went to Deb's for her seder. I gather this is the first one she's ever hosted more or less herself. I don't want to describe the seder so much as my impressions of it. First off, I was late. I got detained at work. My last meeting was at 2, so I figured I would get my work done and get home quickly. Not so. So my plan to bus to work and home ended up being an impediment. Had to cab home and even then I still was 15 minutes late.

I expected something a bit more formal. I shouldn't have. Deb isn't orthodox. As she put it, this is the most Reform of Reform seders. I knew that lots of parts of the Haggadah as put forth by the thin booklets were being skipped. Even so, it was a lot of mish-mash of trying to figure out where we were in the ceremony. Lots of dude, shuddup! and what's this about a house of bondage?

Having not been raised Jewish, a lot of the symbolism meant very little to me. But I have a soft spot in my heart for religious symbolism and ritual. I love such things when they bring meaning and purpose to peoples lives. In this case, it got people together, some of them thinking about the Jewish history and some of them happy to just be part of something. I'm pretty thoroughly agnostic, though I was raised Catholic.

A bit of a segue into my feelings about religion, organized or not. I don't believe. On the other hand, I have a strong belief in god. The two are pretty mutually incompatible and it is a case of cognative dissonance with which I will never deal. But don't start in on me (or around me either) about how bad religion is. I hate that. Some religions and religious people have done some extremely bad things. You want to argue it is intrinsic to the belief system, and I get irritated. You want to get pissy because someone offered you a pamphlet or came to your door? I get really irritated.

Religion gives my mother a huge amount of purpose and direction. It gives billions of people a framework around which to lead productive, fulfilling, happy lives.

I wish I had the belief switch. I wish I could believe and use these frameworks. It just doesn't seem to be built into me though.

So when I get a glimpse of it, such as the seder, I am extremely touched. I had a moment during the seder where I looked over at Deb trying to keep a straight face while chanting some Hebrew, knowing that she felt goofy and yet doing it anyway because of tradition and it's connection to her family, and I almost cried. Made me extremely happy to see her leading the ceremony. It was my glimpse and I loved it.