Culture, Global, Justice, Religion

Blogging the Omer, Days 6, 7, 8: Another "new" "trend," What's Halakhah's problem? and a thought about Pesach and politics

Day 6 Yesod of Chesed
JTA reports on a “new” “trend” (goodness, how many scare quotes do I need for this post?). Once again, the Jewish press gets on the bandwagon a little late., since Moishe house has been doing this for a while now. But what is new and interesting bout these new kvutzot is that they are affiliated with the Zionist youth movements, Habonim-Dror and Hashomer Hatzair (there appear to be three of these altogether currently, one with Habonim Dror and two with Hashomer Hatzair, two in NY and one in Toronto).

Setting up these collectives in North America represents an overhaul of the Zionist youth movement ideal. Whereas in the past these movements functioned more or less like farm teams, preparing young American Jews to settle in Israel, aliyah is no longer the goal.
“Judaism has always been a global reality,” says Jane Manwelyan, 25, of Kvutzat Orev. “Zionism is the collective potential of the Jewish people. Israel is just one of the physical representations of that, certainly not the only one.”
Rather than a physical destination, Israel “is central to our idea of Jewish peoplehood,” says Gil Browdy, 25, of the Habonim kvutza.
He notes that the Israeli kibbutz movement still isn’t sure what to make of the North American upstarts.
“It’s a tension,” Beran acknowledges.
But these young urban pioneers wanted to stay at home, to help revitalize Jewish life in the Diaspora, become involved in community-based activism and build good lives for themselves based on the values with which they grew up, even after they age out of their youth movements.

Since I’ve been scolded lately for drinking the hateorade, I’ll just say that I like it. I think that it’s a fine idea, I’m glad that Moishe house isn’t the only ones doing it, and I hope the idea spreads, not only to sinlge 20somethings, but I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be a good idea for a way to revitalize Jewish communities of all ages, mixed ages, and with or without kids. Oh wait, someone’s done that too (I know the article doesn’t say so, but although being Jewish is by no means required, there are quite a few Jews living there).
Week one, Day 7
Malchut of Chesed
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, over on Jspot, opines that the seder table seems to have gotten rather cluttered. She notes the dozens of emails calling her attention to the various political agendas that yell “me, me” at pesach and offer an assortment of candles, glasses, fruit, and so on to add to those items part of our regular ritual/

Of course I want to find new meaning in the ancient liberation struggle. But the cynic in me wonders whether all the noise ends up detracting both from the holiday and from the issue at hand. It’s hard to feel moved by the fifteenth reminder that we were once strangers, or to find room for yet another empty chair or seder plate item. And it’s hard to remember whether that empty chair is for Darfur and the fifth cup of wine is for Israel, or perhaps the other way around.
I’ve too often been at sedarim where one person reads an insert or explains a new symbol only to have everyone else at the table nod and say “beautiful” “very important” “uh huh” and then move on.

Despite my posting earlier of the apple for reproductive rights, I actually agree with her. Despite my personal support of – and time given to- a number of the items that she lists, I have exactly one addition to my seder: no extra wine glasses, no extra matzot, no extra candles, gewgaws or readings. I’ll admit to an assortment of unrelated haggadot, which people at my seder are forced to struggle with unmatched page numbers, but they’re all relatively traditionally haggadot, no vegetarian haggadot, or Wobbly seders or even any inserts.
I’m not going to mention which item I’ve added to my seder, although I don’t suppose it would surprise anyone (although the reason for it is actually kind of interesting: in itself that particular item has an older tradition than the one which attends it in modern politics, and it traces a heritage back to an older tradition); but I want to give a plug for politics with a ritual item, insert and so forth. Itis true that if you just stick it on the table and no one ever asks a question, then there’s no use in it. But think of all the things that we do to get the children to ask questions. By the time they’re five or six, kids know the ritual. Byt hte time they’re 12 or 13, the four questions have definitely become rote, and the point to htem is not really made. But if you ask a real question! Dad, why the heck are you bugging us with your stupid political Tibet candles? – hey, that’s a real question! Mom, do we have to have the Miriam’s cup again this year, it’s sooo embarrassing!. That’s a really question, too.
Even if the political flavor of the day isn’t going to last more than a couple of years, what it might do is make us quesiotn why we open the door for “pour out your wrath” instead of when Rav Huna did, “let all who are hungry come and eat.” And even asking that question is a step in the right direction, both for the meaning of Pesach, and also for a world in which Eliahu might actually come with a guest to redeem us all.
Week two: Gevurah
day one: Chesed of Gevurah
An article in Haaretz reviews the discussion in two books by Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber on the change in halakhic process making halakha more stringent than was generally the case throughout Jewish history.

In two books recently published in Hebrew by Reuben Mass “Darka shel Halakha” (The Path of Halakha) and “Netivot Pesika” (Modes of Decision), Sperber spells out his arguments against the halakhic decision-making of recent generations; he says it is characterized mainly by disregard for the personal situation of the person requesting the ruling and an absence of humane consideration for the applicant’s suffering and dignity in favor of comprehensive decisions designed for a general public and tending to be stringent.
He traces the origin of the problem, as did many of his respected predecessors (chiefly historian Jacob Katz) to the extreme reaction of religious society in Europe to the phenomenon of Reform and the Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment movement).

Not new, as the article itself points out, but certainly from a scholarly and reliable source. I anticipate much interesting reading for myself.

7 thoughts on “Blogging the Omer, Days 6, 7, 8: Another "new" "trend," What's Halakhah's problem? and a thought about Pesach and politics

  1. Never knew what to do with Elijah’s cup until we added a Miriams cup. Now we read the Midrash about Miriam’s well right after the crossing of the reed sea, and we each ad some water from the Kos Miriam to our own glasses to symbolize the nurture of tradition. The Elijah’s cup stands empty until the section on the messianic age, when we all pour some wine into it from our own glasses to demonstrate that we each have a responsibility to repair the world through our actions.

  2. The Elijah’s cup stands empty until the section on the messianic age, when we all pour some wine into it from our own glasses to demonstrate that we each have a responsibility to repair the world through our actions.
    Huh. We do this too. Did it originate with Kos Miriam and transfer from there to Kos Eliyahu?

  3. Did it originate with Kos Miriam
    NOpe. It’s the adaptation of a Sephardic custom. Which was done without Miriam’s cup….
    I want to say something specifically about Miriam’s cup though… I find it somewhat problematic to have all this focus on Miriam when Moses was deliberately left out of the traditional retelling of the story so that it would be focused on God, rather than on Moshe. In putting Miriam into the story (and not to mention it seems that the only biblical/rabbinic female most Jewish feminists know of is Miriam) isn’t that doing exactly the reverse? Creating a focus away from the message of the story whichis that redemption was God’s, the miracles were GOd’s, and the purpose was to serve God?
    IMO, if we want a female figure represented on the seder table, the appropriate counterpart To Eliahu is Serach bat ASher: she is never recorded as dying, she both goes down to Egypt and goes out of Egypt with the people, plays a role in the yetzia, and is associated with future redemption because of that.
    Of course, the water cup wouldn’t do for her, but we could have a harp!

  4. Which Eliyahu-Miriam pairing came first, Kos Eliyahu + Kos Miriam, or the “Miriam haneviah” song to go with “Eliyahu hanavi”?

  5. Now we read the Midrash about Miriam’s well right after the crossing of the reed sea
    Huh? Where would that be in the Haggadah?

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