Now we are slaves / next year we will be free

The bread of our affliction: seriously.

Second year living on the periphery of the periphery. Driving to a nearby city for the Seder at Chabad. Passover is my favorite holiday on the Jewish calendar, I think, but I’m not feeling it at the moment. I know exactly why this is — the excitement comes from celebrating the holiday with people I know, and I don’t really have a Jewish community here. That’s really part of a bigger question. I haven’t made any new friends since moving back. I tend to make my friends in work settings and since I’ve only worked part-time, I haven’t done it yet. I haven’t joined the synagogue here, for various reasons, although I guess I will. And I don’t really have time for intense volunteer work, either. Oddly. In general, it’s part of the whole “commit” question — and a quarter of the year is over. I’ve been trying harder to commit to things, but it’s also been more difficult than I realized after I decided to stop consciously or subconsciously avoiding it. (Which makes me feel better about my avoidance — maybe it wasn’t all laziness. Maybe some of this stuff is actually hard.)

Anyway, I’ll feel it once I am there. It’s one of the weird paradoxes of Chabad, I find: despite what look like very firm borders, their periphery is much easier to occupy than that of a Conservative synagogue (say). They take the responsibility of hospitality to the stranger very seriously and their doors are open. It reflects a bit my first experiences with them back in Florida: because their burden is so heavy, they know what it’s like to struggle (as opposed to the Conservative situation where the rabbi is practically always preaching more observance, the Chabad message to the unobservant is friendlier: do just a little bit more).

I’m hoping for a zany Seder, but I’ll be happy if we just sing a lot. My Christian pastor friends are all polling their FB friends to find out what they are singing on Easter, but the Seder has a fixed text, so none of my Jewish friends seem to be asking that question [laughs wryly]. For the Seder, “favorite” has a different meaning — the songs we enjoy singing vs the paragraphs we run through as quickly as possible because nobody knows a tune, the content is weird, or we just don’t understand them. But in any case, they will be friendly and I will think again about liberation and commitment. How to commit. How to work harder at committing. Now that I’m free: how do I choose again the bonds we all live with?

Chag Pessach kasher v’sameach to the Jewish world. I’ve stopped saying “Next Year in Jerusalem” lately — it seems too problematic — but I will be praying for liberation from the world’s current problems.


My favorite Passover text:

הא לחמא עניא די אכלו אבהתנא בארעא דמצרים. כל דכפין ייתי ויכל. כל דצריך ייתי ויפסח. השתא הכא. לשנה הבאה בארעא דישראל. השתא עבדי. לשנה הבאה בני חורין

This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need come and celebrate Passover. Now we are here. Next year in the land of Israel. Now we are slaves. Next year we will be free.

I’ve never liked the tune of the song that goes with it, but here that is:

My favorite Passover song (this isn’t part of the Seder, it’s sung afterwards if anyone’s still up to it after all the wine):

And here are the Maccabeats singing the Four Questions (this is not how this centrally important part of the Seder usually goes, just in case you were wondering, but it would be funny if it did):

~ by Servetus on April 10, 2017.

12 Responses to “Now we are slaves / next year we will be free”

  1. Ich wusste nicht, dass du jüdisch bist. Shalom achot ve slicha.
    Chag pessach kasher ve’sameach.
    Man kann von Chabad halten, was man will, aber für das jüdische Leben in der Galut tun sie viel.
    Ich mag immer dieses Gedicht von Chana Senesz:

    „Gesegnet das Streichholz, das sich verbraucht, indem es die Flamme entzündet.
    Gesegnet die Flamme, die immer brennt in den innersten Winkeln des Herzens.
    Gesegnet das Herz, das Würde bewahrt auch in seiner letzten Stunde.
    Gesegnet das Streichholz, das sich verbraucht, indem es die Flamme entzündet.”

    האבה הנשב

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well–yes, I am. There’s a lot of writing on this blog about my encounter with the intersection of Chabad / haredi / ultra-orthodox Judaism since 2011. Usually in relationship to holidays. It would be futile for me to try to discuss it briefly. I’m neither an opponent nor a defender of Chabad, though. Gut yontiff!


  2. The Maccabeats! They are amazing, that was such fun!
    Wishing you all the best — Chag Sameach!


    • They are a lot of fun. Soooo modern orthodox. I witnessed a spectacular four-questions-related meltdown last night. Poor kid. I’ve never seen anything like that. He could have used the Maccabeats for backup, lol.


  3. As an avid RA follower I enjoy reading your posts . As a rabbi’s daughter I really appreciated this one. Chag Sameach!


  4. A happy and above all peaceful Passover, S. Chag Sameach!
    I missed matzos this year,maybe i will find the time to go and buy some to take home for parents, it always reminds my mother fondly of her Jewish friend from school, the rabbi’s daughter. Sadly the rabbi passed away a few years ago, he was a lovely man. I miss being surrounded by all these different traditions around Easter which were there when i grew up. The Jewish, Catholic and Orthodox communities used to be much closer back then, maybe because in a way they were all united against Communism. The town also felt smaller and more intimate, i guess in a way we lived more like in a village where everyone knew everyone else.

    Thank you for the songs!


    • OK, I personally don’t miss matzot at all — I only eat them at Passover. It’s kind of a perverse thing, I don’t eat much bread at all but during Passover I crave bread like crazy. Besides not being able to eat legumes. OMG.

      But I appreciate your memories. Religious diversity is a thing we could use more of and which seems under threat in the US, too, which I always thought of as the place of ultimate religious potential. Thanks for the good wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I come to the conclusion that I know no Pesach songs! I didn’t know these in any case, not that I remember anyhow. Loved the Maccabeats one with their choice of instruments!! And matzos! I eat that year round. They have these round matzos here year round (in the ‘crackers’ section) in our supermarket. I know many people don’t like them, my husband and son say they doesn’t taste like anything, but I love them. Maybe because I grew up eating them… My daughter likes them too, by the way. Especially love them with some cheese or with butter and chocolate sprinkles or with avocado spread over it but I’ll happily eat them plain too. Yumm.

    As for committing yourself to a community – it’s difficult to find one where you can feel you belong! I remember my parents searching for the right church for us. We had loved the church we’d been to when we lived in Israel but my parents couldn’t find a steady one they liked in Germany for a while. We ended up at an Episcopalian American church for some years but when a new pastor came they didn’t like much, we stopped going there as well. If you want to really commit to something, mostly it will have to be to something or someone you truly like or love, otherwise it’ll be hard to hold on to in the long run. And when you do truly love it, you’ll have to learn to also accept the down sides, which may be the hardest part of commitment. When I look at commitment in my marriage, for instance, I do acknowledge some occasional down sides but always remember that I’d rather have this with the down sides than not have this at all! I wish you all the best of luck finding what you seek and hoping you can commit to that!

    Hope your Pesach was good! And next year in Jerusalem would be nice. I’ll come too, I love Jerusalem, even with all it’s troubles…. 🙂


    • I’d say it’s probably b/c you grew up in Jerusalem where the Sephardic tunes are more well known. I just don’t think the Ashkenazic tune I know for “Ha lachma anya” is very good and so it usually ends up being chanted or read rather than sung. Sadly. I like the text. But the Maccabeats’ tune for Mah nishtanah — that’s a worldwide standard, I’ve even heard Sephardim using it.

      re: committing myself — I realized in the course of my adventures with my last shul that it’s so complicated! I have accumulated some preferences over the years — like, I like the “shtibl” style over the incredibly organized institutional style OR the informal chavurah style — but some of my preferences are in conflict with others, like: I really like the complete service without shortcuts. One thing I did learn in that setting, too, is that it’s much less important that I feel personally comfortable in the shul than I used to think it was. The people in the Tampa shul, with the exception of Pesky, were nothing like me, but the davening was so intense that it really didn’t matter most of the time.

      Next year in Jerusalem with peace. [sad smile]

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe you should become a rabbi yourself and do services in the way you would like them! Not that I know you that well, but somehow I could imagine you doing that. You have taught a lot, after all… My ex-sister-in-law is an ordained rabbi, although not working as one now. 🙂
        Real peace in Jerusalem – I wonder if that will ever happen…


        • I thought about ti really seriously about five years ago and then decided it wasn’t for me. But yeah — lots of resonances there.

          Liked by 1 person

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