HAVING YOUR SAY AT THE SEDER

Statistics have it that more Jews participate in a Passover Seder than light Chanukah candles. Before you delude yourself into imagining how proud HaShem and Moshe are knowing that the revolutionary event of the Exodus from Egypt lives on millennia later, consider the fact that there are a good many contemporary Jews who conduct a Seder for purely selfish reasons. The Seder provides them with a forum to further a point of view that they hold as sacred. Put differently, in many instances, the Passover Seder has evolved into the most politicized tradition known to our people.

Politicizing Passover is nothing new. Close to a century ago, following the overthrow of the Czar, Communist leadership used the Passover Seder to advance its cause. Nicholas II was seen as Pharaoh, Vladamir Lenin was portrayed as Moses, life in Czarist Russia was indistinguishable from Egypt where cruel enslavement of the masses ran rampant, and the Soviet Union under Communism, where everyone enjoyed “equal rights,” was a panacea perhaps even superior to the Promised Land.

With the most modicum of imagination, the Passover Seder serves as the venue for any number of causes you hold to be sacred. At present, I’m sure that there are those who use the Seder to advance the plight of the poor Palestinians living in bondage under the wicked Israelis who deny them dignity as a people.

Don’t hijack the Passover Seder for selfish reasons. For two nights a year, even disaffected Jews ought to be able to find it in their hearts to accord Moses his rightful place among our people. As for using the Seder to further one’s personal agenda, one might consider using the conclusion of Passover as an appropriate time.

It would bookend the festival. Rather than watch the dissipation of Passover encroach as the crumbs of the Seder are brushed aside, a post Passover Seder could provide symmetry. Should you wish to resort to maror and matzah to highlight the plight of those you maintain are being denied freedom, then by all means! A post Passover Seder affords you to introduce bread and all over symbols to represent a future filled with hope. A post Passover Seder guarantees that the festival not only begins with interest and participation but ends with interest and participation as well.

It would show that you are no usurper. Those with an agenda all their own feel that they deserve a platform. If so, don’t deny Moses the platform that is his. Show others that you have the courtesy and sensitivity to permit Moses eight days of fame each year. Once Moses has had his say, beginning with “And you shall tell your son on that day” (Exodus 13:8) and concluding (seven days later) with “HaShem shall do battle for you and you shall remain silent” (exodus 14:14), you will have ample time to have your say and customize the message of Passover to fit your needs.

It keeps it in the house. You have every right to champion whatever cause you feel to be important. Do so within the walls of your own home. Chances are that others really don’t care about the beliefs you hold to be so sacrosanct. On the other hand, it may very well be that others care a great deal and are repulsed by those beliefs. Why should you be the cause for acrimony in the community? Doesn’t the Seder begin by extending an all-inclusive invitation? Keep your politicized Seder with your beliefs inside your own home where you can rant and rave to your heart’s content.

TALK LIKE AN ISRAELI

As one who frequents a movie theater on the average of once every two years, I surprised myself when I actually read about an upcoming movie starring Natalie Portman which opens this Friday. What attracted me to the article was that Israeli born but American raised Natalie was being coached by Israeli born and raised Neta Riskin (I became hooked on Neta through her character, Gitti Weiss on the weekly Israeli drama Shtisel) on how to speak Hebrew with an Israeli accent.
My reaction was threefold:
I felt vindicated. There is justice in this world after all! If five and a half decades ago, Sheva Stern of Philadelphia could coach a young Ben Netanyahu to speak English with an American accent so that he would stop referring to a piece of farm machinery as a trrrrekktorrrrrr, then Neta Riskin can certainly coach Natalie Portman to transform tractor back to trrrrekktorrrrr. The Israelis owe us one.
I felt frustrated. As adept as Neta Riskin may be as a coach, there is more to the Israeli accent than being able to reproduce glottal and lingual sounds. One of the features of the Israeli accent is that other than monosyllabic words, Israelis either accent the last syllable or the second to last syllable of the word. Whereas Americans pronounce the name of the Jewish State as Israel, Israelis (allowing for hebraization) say Yisrael. For those who really wish to “talk the talk” when it comes to the language of our people, no different than placing the accent on the final or next to final syllable, what’s of utmost importance is who has the last say. By their very nature, Israelis are used to having the last say. Being a product of their country, they come by it naturally.  From Israel’s very inception when Pentagon prognosticators gave the nascent state a survival period of no more than a month, until this very day with “sophisticated” college students bleating that Israel is an apartheid state, Israelis have always had and in all likelihood will continue to have the last say as they dismiss or ignore those who have no idea what they are talking about..
I was saddened. When all is said and done, Israelis have to a large extent lost their accent. And it has nothing to do with the way they form their words. There was a time when Israelis placed their social accent on simple get-togethers, an evening of sitting out on the mirpesset (balcony) looking out onto the street, interacting with neighbors and watching out for one another. In so many ways, Israelis have been Americanized and their accent is now on technology, materialism and traveling abroad.
Having worked long and hard to sound like an American and not a Canadian when I speak,
I will be the first to tell you that accents are of major importance. But I will also tell you than when it comes to conveying a message, the way one accents one’s words is at best of secondary importance.
Derech Agav (Hebrew for by the way) Neta, I am intrigued with the way you told Natalie to place the palm of her hand in front of her mouth. You told her that if her palm sensed her breath, she was well onto her way of speaking with an Israeli accent. You may wish to suggest the palm test to Israelis who come off sounding cockney whenever they say oo instead of hu (Hebrew for he) and ee instead of he (Hebrew for she).