I won’t tempt any of my practicing Jewish friends with pictures of the bread I’ve been baking. Instead, I’ll talk about Passover. You can see, clearly, that we aren’t doing anything for Passover this year. It’s yet again too busy a time to make a holiday meal, to have friends over. But as my husband makes his own Crypto-Jewish snacks, I am thinking about it.
I really love Passover. Passover is everything I always wanted Easter to be. I love the celebration of freedom from bondage; I love the bondage jokes; I love the food; I love the wine; I love the symbolism of the food and wine; I love the reclining and the questions and the seder plate and the way the message can be translated into so many ways. I love the silly “dayenu” song and its profound, truly profound, synthesis of grace and gratitude.
Dayenu: the word means “it would have been enough,” and the song’s chorus is a repetition of that single word. The versus explain: Had God only given us this, dayenu. Had God only given us that, dayenu. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God or not; it’s about being grateful at the very core.
But it’s also more. It’s about graciously giving, too. There are all kinds of ways one can read the transmission of a gift, many of them troubling the gesture. But when I think of the celebration of Passover, I don’t think much the many bad aspects of disciplinary power or why some people have the right to give and others the need to receive, I think about the simple, uncomplicated pleasure of giving/getting something you want, something perfect. I think about generosity, both from the side of the getter (freely accepting the gift) and the giver (freely giving it). It can be, when it’s not complicated and vexed, so simple and beautiful and life-affirming.
I just hope I won’t be receiving the bountiful gesture of a gefilte-jalapeño Hillel sandwich for dinner. Bitter tears, indeed.