It’s Pesach – Pas­sover – the one Jewish fest­ival I’ve been pretty good about observing ever since I had a rev­el­a­tion playing a role­playing game by Craig Walker (), iron­ic­ally called Rev­el­a­tions 68:11 (or some­thing, I may have the chapter and verse wrong) at a con­ven­tion. My rev­el­a­tion con­cerned the way Jews tell the stories of Pesach as events that happened to us – to us and not our ancestors. The stories are of slaves being set free from their shackles and of finding refuge in new lands, of wan­dering in the desert for 40 years and seeking a new home. We tell these stories as if they happened to us because it is essen­tial that someone remem­bers, and it is too easy for some tale from 4000 years ago to be dis­missed as irrel­evant by chil­dren. But if it happened to me, to your mother, then it is abso­lutely rel­evant. It could happen to you.

Pas­sover to me is about refugees now, about abol­ishing slavery, about human traf­ficking. This time last year I was at an anarchist (vegan, cross-dressing) Seder (the Pas­sover meal) and this year we were invited to stay in Sydney longer to go to Seder at my aunt’s. We said no – too late notice, have to change plane tickets – but I’m almost wishing we could have gone, since we didn’t have a Seder of our own planned this year.

I don’t know what it would have been like. The family is very dif­ferent now. I’ve become all nos­talgic for the Seders of my child­hood all of a sudden: my mother and her sister, my sis­ters, my cousins – both now in New York, my grandma and grandpa – both now dead. My child­hood wasn’t exactly happy and Seders were hardly without stress: the boredom of hours of ser­vice before you can eat, my grandfather’s strict adher­ence to an old Hag­gadah, my sis­ters and cousin Vanessa and I all mut­tering “or her” everytime the old, old book used “him” as a gen­eric and driving my grand­father crazy. The irony of the event at all, given that, as far as I know, not one single person at that table believed in God, yet we all said “If God had freed us from Egypt but not given us the ten com­mand­ments, it would have been suf­fi­cient, dayenu”.

I miss my mother’s char­oset, the apple, wine and walnut dish that rep­res­ents the mortar for the walls the Jews built for Pharoah.

Right now, Harper is the youngest child. By tra­di­tion, she would ask the four ques­tions. (Well, no, by tra­di­tion, the youngest *boy* would ask the four ques­tions, but I don’t follow that in my Seders anyway). I was talking with Doug a few weeks ago about the irony of this for­mu­laic ques­tioning now, mem­or­ised and sung ina for­eign lan­guage, and then the rote responses and dis­cus­sions of what the wise Talmudic scholars recom­mend you should say to the wise child and the slow child. This has all lost its meaning – the chil­dren aren’t listening at this point at all, although I was, as a teen­ager, finally.

One day, I do want Harper to ask these ques­tions, but in her own lan­guage and her own words. Per­haps, “why do we only eat this char­oset stuff once a year? It’s yummy!” or “why do I have to dip my egg in salt water? It’s weird.” And I’ll tell her, “When I was a slave in Egypt…”

May all people who live in ser­vitude any­where in the world be free this time next year. May all refugees find wel­come in a stranger’s land. 

EDIT: Telling the Pas­sover story as if it happened to us? This year, the Face­book ver­sion.