Dissonance and its troubles

Spring and the Passover Moon

Monday gratefuls: Marilyn and Irv. Steve, Cyndi, Hoosier woman. Heidi. Salaam. Kathy. Patrick. Gil. Seder at  the Saltzman’s. My permanent seat at Tara’s seder. And, Marilyn said, hers as well. Belonging, not believing. Judaism. An Ancientrail of debate, song, justice. The Passover Moon last night. Mountains. Forests. Wild Neighbors. Good food.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Palestinians. Israelis.

One brief shining: When the chatter grows loud and the hearing aid fails, the world recedes and I sit there, an observer wishing I was elsewhere, sort of engaged, hearing the headline words, wanting to add something, get in there, talk, yet both functionally unable, too little signal, and emotionally unable, I need to get away from here, from these people.


Passover last night at Marilyn and Irv’s. Wonderful. Frustrating. My first passover as a Jew. Now my story in a different way than metaphor, though it is too metaphor. My ancestors who stood up to Pharaoh. My ancestors fled into the Sinai, wandered there for forty years eating manna, grumbling, receiving the torah, making a golden calf. That’s the difference. The lineage. Whether Hebrews were slaves in Egypt or not, this origin story conveys how and who we are even now, thousands of years later. The we there is the difference.

No longer do I sit at a seder table as an interested observer, rather now as one whose attention and person has direct links with the maror, the haroset, with the seder plate. Profound for me. And, oddly dissonant.

As I sat through my first seder as a Jew, I was with people who waved “organized” religion away with a Buddhist shrug or a spirituality makes more sense wave from the back of a parade convertible. I wanted to say, well, ok, but for me I find wonder in the torah. In the blessings. In the community of Beth Evergreen. But my hearing issues and my sense of the chasm between me and religion’s cultured despisers kept me quiet. And in that quietness I judged. Judged.

Shallow. Timid. Fearful. Seeking the pablum of the inner life. Baby food. The reason our politics are so screwed up. Bright but so caught up in their white privilege they can’t see the world as it is.

Oh, I was superior. Better than them. And in that very feeling of course reduced myself and my own observations to a sideshow. I felt defensive, but not willing to talk about it. To challenge, to step in the water. I stewed. Wondering how I could extricate myself. I couldn’t.

It was my first passover as a Jew. I wanted to be there. To hear the four questions, to sing Dayenu, to taste the bitter herb and the haroset. To listen to and participate in my story.

Later, this morning, I found myself. Collected the Charlie from the table last night. Sat him down and said, “Look. These are people trying their best. Wanting to live well. To be loving and kind. As are you.” They don’t share your radical politics, very few do. They don’t share your fascination with the ancient ways of a desert people. And why should they? You are the one being judged when you judge. Lighten up and enjoy these folks.

And here’s the thing. Outside celebration of a holiday focused on liberation I could have found each of these people to be interesting interlocutors. Good for a breakfast or lunch time heart to heart. Passover, and my first as a Jew, revved up my political and religious engines. I ran too hot for the evening.

That is the other thing. I’m a man of religion and of politics. What are the two things folks agree not to discuss at Thanksgiving? Yep.