I hope everyone in the Jewish community is having a happy holiday. I celebrated two very nice humanistic seders with friends and at Congregation Beth Adam using “The Liberated Haggadah” by my colleague, Rabbi Peter Schweitzer and “The Seder” from Beth Adam in Cincinnati.
Both books tell the story of the exodus using midrashic materials and underplaying the role of God in the narrative. In most haggadas, of course, it’s Moses whose role is minimized. The rabbis who wrote it preferred to feature God’s role as the true redeemer of Israel. “The Liberated Haggadah” explicitly addresses the reasoning behind minimizing God’s role, noting that while most haggadas go in the other direction, we should be elevating the roles of the human heroes of the story.
Even if there is a shred of historicity in the story – and there’s not more than a shred – whatever occurred had nothing to do with any gods. In our time it’s probably even more appropriate to downplay God’s role. Too many people are still waiting around for him to make the world a better place and that’s clearly not going to happen.
No, the path to a better world and freedom for all can only be built by us. If it helps you to believe that “God” inspires it, then go for it. But if you’re waiting for him to get the work done, then you’ll be waiting a looooong time.
And speaking of freedom, my daughter has recently brought to my attention the fact that there are tens of millions of slaves on this planet. I don’t mean people who are symbolically enslaved by hunger and poverty, which is definitely a kind of enslavement, too. I mean actual slaves, some exploited by debt, others in the sex trade and others simply held against their will. I know we have a lot of problems in the world, but it seems to me that eliminating slavery in the year 2012 could be a little higher on our agenda.
Maybe a plague or two would help the situation, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Chag Sameach! Happy Passover!