09 April 2009

Next Year in Jerusalem

Tired.

That's okay. It beats slavery, which is the whole point of this week.

And when you add in the Omer--the forty-nine days of counting leading up to Shavuot, the Festival celebrating the Giving of Torah--the focus on and intensity of this next period of time on the Jewish calendar is quite remarkable.

So yeah, I'm tired. But that's okay.

Up late last night for Seder One and up late tonight, absorbing the lessons of Seder Two, not at home like Seder One but at Shul, with more than 110 guests and a busy maintenance crew, anonymously setting up tables and chairs, and then delivering to the tables the food we ate, while waiting to then clear the tables of our dishes.

At one point, during the Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals) I spied the kitchen, seeing the men sitting on stools, waiting for us to finish. Sometimes we talk baseball; sometimes we talk politics; and sometimes they anonymously clean up the ceremonial meals that we Jews eat to mark the Shabbat and the Festivals. I get that it's a job and all, but still: something tells me we need a new way to thinking about this. I'm not sure what it is, mind you. But a new way seems generally like the right direction.

In some of the early commentary to the Haggadah, there's a terrific debate about the prepositional meanings of the fine, Hebrew grammar distinctions between the prepositional "you" and the direct objectival "you." Each carry their own weight. But the distinction is used to hammer home the point that when Moses was addressing the Israelites about the rules they would need to follow once they entered the Promised Land. Prepositional is considered more distancing from the essence of Torah whereas the direct objectival is somehow binding upon past, present and future generations. There is implied if you will, in the grammar, a connective quality that spans time and generations.

To wit: the less distance the better. That is to say, I get that it's a job to set our tables and clean up after us, but I wonder if our Congregational Seders should be inclusive of our Staff ("even the strangers who live among you") and not just us and our family and friends. I wonder if the words are only true if we are sharing the Passover story with "our workers?"

Next Year in Jerusalem can mean something entirely new. Do you know what I mean?

How is that we can celebrate our personal story of redemption from labor when others labor to make our storytelling possible? We need to figure this out. Ideas welcome.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rabbi,
Thanks for hosting Khalidi at the temple last week!
I'm a non-Zionist blogger, along with Adam Horowitz, at Mondoweiss.net.
The other night we heard that your Hebrew school has a map on a wall showing Israel without the green line.
The person who told us this was disturbed by it. So was I. Though Adam said that it is very common for Hebrew schools to have maps like this--so Beth Elohim is hardly alone...
I know you are for the two-state solution.
Can you tell me why you would allow such a map inside your Hebrew school?
Thanks,
Phil Weiss
(weissphilip@yahoo.com)

Andy Bachman said...

Hi Philip

The map is an historical map of the land, not a political map. The Biblical Land of Israel is a concept that pre-dates these thorny political issues. I wouldn't waste your time being disturbed by it. Our children learn that there are two peoples struggling to share the land. That land happens to be represented in that map.

By the way, what's a "non-Zionist?"

The New Centrist said...

Weiss is a hardcore anti-Zionist. His blogroll links to notorious anti-Semites like Joachim Martillo. Take a look at his blog and you will see what I mean.