Passover was always a very meaningful holiday in our family home growing up. My father took his duties as leader of the seder very seriously and conducted an intelligent discussion of the philosophical and historical issues raised during the yearly retelling of the story of our people’s flight from slavery in Egypt to wandering in the wilderness towards freedom.
“Well, that’s an accurate description of the procedure. It’s a continual process, liberation. You start off a slave, and you can never shake that slave mentality 100%,” said the skeleton. “You strive to be free later, when massa’s in de cold, cold ground, but you always have the fears and emotional habits of the slave. In your dreams you are still powerless, as we all largely are in our waking lives. If you are born a slave you will never personally become free, that’s why the generation that had been slaves all had to die, except for Moses and his brother, who’d grown up as princes. The forty years of wandering in the wilderness was so that all the former slaves could die, and their slave mentalities with them. Only then were the children of the Hebrews ready to become Israelites.
“During your lifetime you try to teach the next generation to be be free, unafraid, to tolerate no whipping. True freedom means everybody around you is also free. Are you really free if all of your brothers and sisters are still slaves? I took the message of Passover very personally: remember that you yourself were a slave to the Pharaoh in Egypt and his eternal ilk, and I think I transmitted that to you and your sister.”
To a dramatic, sometimes disabling effect, I would have to say. Identify with the slave, the doomed, the powerless– beyond a certain point– and it will fuck you up.
“Well, as in all things, a point of moderation must be found,” said the skeleton.
Easier said than done, of course. I’m going to have to continue this with you a little later, I just want to point out a shabby bit of copy writing in a Haggadah my good friends use every year. They take Passover as seriously as you did, and it bugs me every year when I read this line, and I never want to stop the seder to niggle over this one point, but what do you think?.
“Jews at the seder are free to robustly debate and agrue, not meekly acquiesce like slaves, but argue strongly, head to head, like adamant rivals.”
“There’s a Jewish copywriter for you,” said the skeleton, his wry grin, or yawn, intact.
Adamant rivals, dad. If that fellow had a thesaurus he would have found stubborn, obdurate, inflexible, unyielding, impenetrable, impermeable, next to his chosen word.
“Even the chosen people do not always chose the chosen word well,” said the skeleton.
So true. Look, I’d love to keep chatting with you today, dad, but I have an appointment in an hour and about seventy minutes of stuff I have to do to get ready.
“Can you ever be truly ready?” asked the skeleton, unhelpfully.
Not at this rate, pops.