Passover is the ancient Jewish holiday on which we celebrate the story of a man who probably never existed and who may or may not have freed his people from a slavery that probably never happened by bringing forth plagues of which there is no historical record, ultimately leading them on a journey through the desert for which there is no evidence to a Promised Land that turned out to be anything but. Mazel tov!
I am, as you may have gathered, a fallen Jew, and not since the fall of the house of Usher has a fall been so welcomed by everyone concerned. So Passover, to me, is one of those holidays that hilariously negates itself, like Christmas, which is supposed to be about peace but instead has become about fighting strangers in Walmart. Passover, which is supposed to celebrate freedom from enslavement to man, imposes in its place a more complete enslavement to God.
A doctrinal ruling by Rabbi Y. Bodner, for instance, holds: “Thin matzohs come 9 matzohs to a pound, medium matzohs come 7 to a pound, and thick matzohs come 6 to a pound. . . . If he has thin matzoh, he should use slightly more than one half of a matzoh; if he has medium matzoh, he will need more than a third and less than a half of a matzoh; if he has a thick matzoh, he should take a little more than one third of a matzoh.”
If you want to learn more, you can attend a modern seder, or Passover meal, and watch a family tear itself to pieces in the vain hope that God doesn’t tear everyone to pieces later. Or you can try these:
“Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health,” by William Davis
Matzoh, the traditional Passover unleavened bread, is essentially a hardened piece of grade-A, 100 percent pure Colombian gluten, one slice of which could render an average-size American city diarrhetic in a matter of hours. It’s not important that there is now gluten-free matzoh. What’s important is that God commanded us to eat wheat, which this best-selling book shows can cause numerous health ailments. So either (a) God didn’t know about gluten, in which case He’s not much of a God, or (b) He knew about gluten and is trying to kill us. Matzoh, theologically speaking, is a smoking gun.
“Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E.L. James
From a narrative perspective, this is the same story as Passover: A needy young woman (the Jews) falls for a domineering sociopath (God) who promises to bring her joy (the Holy Land) by beating the heck out of her (40 years in the desert), pain she actually thanks him for (Passover) by doing all manner of loathsome things (i.e., eating matzoh, drinking kosher wine).
“Call It Sleep,” by Henry Roth
Another Promised Land tale, only in this case the Promised Land is America, and the young protagonist’s Egypt is his dysfunctional immigrant family. God, played by the boy’s father, is as cruel as ever.
“Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies From the Occupied Territories, 2000-2010,” by Breaking the Silence
Sort of an epilogue to the Passover fairy tale — yeah, sure, we got there, but it took forever, there’s been war ever since, and we’re not the same idealistic people we were when our story began. The testimony of hundreds of Israel Defense Forces soldiers, this difficult read reveals the many ways the enslaved have become the enslavers. Former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir once said, “We will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.” This is commonly known as “blaming the victim,” and Passover might be a good time to quit it.
“Letter to His Father,” by Franz Kafka
If you want to know what it’s like to feel enslaved, unloved and unwanted, don’t read the Haggadah — read Kafka. Sorry, academia, Kafka didn’t write about bureaucracy. He didn’t write about the machine of government, or our failure to do this or our inability to do that. He wrote about his heart, his family and how his family destroyed his heart, and nothing he wrote was ever more direct than this fiercely courageous letter:
You asked me recently why I maintain that I am afraid of you. As usual, I was unable to think of any answer to your question, partly for the very reason that I am afraid of you.
That sounds like just about every prayer, in every religion, ever written. Maybe instead of Passover, we should have a holiday that truly celebrates freedom. We’ll call it Kafkover. And on that day, people all over the world won’t pray to gods that enslave them, won’t point their fingers at their enemies, won’t get together with the families that don’t love them and will, instead, spend the day enjoying the only freedom that matters: freedom from the past.