... and celebrating the death of children?
"Does it matter if the story of the escape from Egypt is historically true?" Rabbi Suzanne Singer asked us, her congregants, on Saturday, at the Passover Seder dinner at Temple Beth El in Riverside.
We're a liberal Reform Judaism congregation. Everyone except me seemed to be shaking their heads, no, it doesn't matter. I was nodding, however. Yes, it does matter.
Rabbi Singer walked over to me with the microphone, "Okay, Eric, why does it matter?"
I say "we" are a Reform Judaism congregation, but let me be clear: I am not Jewish. My wife Pauline is. My teenage son Davy is. Davy even teaches at the religious school. My nine-year-old daughter Kate, adopted from China at age one, recently described herself as "half Jewish". We're members. We volunteer, attend some of the services. Sometimes I try to chant the chants, sometimes I don't. I always feel a little... ambiguous.
I hadn't been expecting to speak. I came out with some version of the following thought. If the story of Passover is literally true, then there's a miracle-working God. And it would matter if there were such a God. I don't think I would like the moral character of that God, a God who kills so many innocent Egyptians. I'm glad it's not literally true. It matters.
I find it interesting, I added, that we ("we"?) have this celebratory holiday about the death of children, contrary to the values of most of us now. It's interesting how we struggle to deal with that change in values while keeping the traditions of the holiday.