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Chag Pesach Sameach

I just spent a large chunk of my Sunday with my extended family observing Passover, and I just made it back to my computer in time last night to record our latest episode of The Skeptics Guide 5×5. I had another more colorful topic to blog about today, but I’m shelving it until next week because I ran out of time preparing for the Jewish holiday, whose ceremony and festive meal ran much longer than I expected, and frankly, I’m just too tired to finish up the subject I wanted to write about. I’ll save it for next week.

For those unaware of this ancient religious ritual, Passover is the Jewish holy days and festival commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. Anyone who has seen the movie “The Ten Commandments” knows that much of the Passover story is covered in that movie, because it focuses on the story and life of Moses and how he led the Jews out of slavery from Pharaoh Raamses of Egypt. Jewish people all over the world gather with their families to recount this story at the dinner table, reading from the book of Passover, called the Haggadah, and partaking in the accompanying rituals and festive meal, called the Seder.

There are things I like about Passover Seder, such as seeing family and friends, and the actual meal is a multiple course orgy of food consisting of delicious home-made dishes and treats that leaves no one at the table wanting for anything more. And there are things about Passover that make me cringe, such as the reading of the Haggadah and the extended length of time that the Seder takes place. I’ve been to Seders before that have lasted for three hours – that’s three hours of reading and discussing the Passover story while seated at a dinner table, only being allowed to taste small morsels of food from the Seder plate (the plate that contains the symbolic foods of Passover, such as a hard boiled egg, some parsley in salt water, some apples with cinnamon, some horse radish, and of course, dry crackers, better known as matzoh.) So that’s three hours of sitting and reading and reciting before the large meal hits the table. Talk about religious torture, but hey, if it doesn’t make you sacrifice in some way, then its not really religious now, is it.

This year wasn’t that bad, the reading probably was only 45 minutes or so. But the reading of the Haggadah at the Seder table tells about how the Jews escaped the bonds of slavery many thousands of years ago. To a certified, card carrying skeptic such as myself, it takes every fiber in my being not to stand up and say to the family: “There is hardly any scientific evidence that any of this ever took place! Lets just eat!”

While I could try to piece together all of the fallacies and lack of evidence that Jews were enslaved by Egyptian pharaohs, followed by a mass Exodus led by Moses all those years ago, I found this blog entry explaining my points much better than I could make the case. It’s a bit long, but it’s thorough, and while it is one person’s opinion on the validity of the events surrounding Passover, I find it to be convincing enough to share with all of you.

Enjoy your matzoh this week!

PS – Did anyone else see The Pope throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium yesterday? ; )

12 comments to Chag Pesach Sameach

  • Fiziker

    Calling matzo a cracker is giving it too much credit. A cracker conjures images of a nice snap when one bites into it–this matzo does not have. If only Pesach had challah.

  • Awesome link Evan.

    Also, check out:
    Scroll down to ‘Secular Haggadah’.

    Also, check out the documentary based on Israel Finkelstein’s awesome book ‘The Bible Unearthed’:

  • fl

    One year, when I was a teenager at the Seder table, I added “or maybe there was a low tide at the same time an unusual Saharan wind blew by” to the part of the story where ol’ gee-dash-dee parts the Red Sea.

    My personal favorite part of the Haggadah is where we thank God for taking the Egyptians’ property and giving it to the Jews and killing their firstborn sons.

  • Steve Page

    Perhaps next year, you could email your family that link and say, “Can you believe it? I checked it out, and it seems that this stuff is actually true. Hey ho, see you at Passover; it’s more about food and family than fairytales, anyway.”

    Maybe that’s too clumsy. What’s the Yiddish word for klutz? 🙂

  • GHcool

    I’m a Jewish skeptic and still enjoy reading the Haggadah and going through all the rituals and retelling my people’s founding myth. It might not be “literally true,” but the story has been a source of inspiration for the entire world and contains enough wisdom and ethics in it to justify reading it once a year with the family.

  • matzoh=cardboard
    ive had seders go till 1:30. ugh. you got off easy.

  • Takshaka

    you know what makes matzoh taste great? Whipped cream cheese spread over the top of it. Mmmm… I ate that for breakfast almost every day of my Junior Year of College.

  • As a post-Jewish girl living in Los Angeles, I found Passover the perfect holiday to get last-minute restaurant reservations on a Saturday night.

  • I’m a gentile, but my neighbors on one side are Jewish, and the neighbors across the street are half-Jewish. All of us are old friends. I spent most of the weekend wandering back-and-forth in a half-drunken haze, pigging out on good eats. 🙂

  • GHcool:
    Maybe you’ll reconsider when you realize that the ten plagues, especially the last one, are not much different than terrorism. Is the murdering of innocent children really justified in order to give one particular people freedom? Did God really need to do that? Couldn’t he just airlift them to safety?

    Plus, these foundation myths might be fun, but they teach kids a very twisting form of ancient history. Plus, they teach that one group of people are more important than others. They also teach that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people. That causes a lot of Jews to not want to give up any land in Israel, no matter what, hence the divisive ‘settlements’.

  • Ted H.

    We did have the “or maybe there was a low tide at the same time an unusual Saharan wind blew by” type of conversation at that part this year. We also discussed that it was probably the Reed Sea, not the Red Sea, a completely different body of water. The we noticed that our Haggadah (using this version for the first time) also called it the Sea of Reeds.

  • GHcool

    Within the diegesis of the Bible, God is real, omnipotent, and just. Within the diegesis of the Bible, the slaying of the first born children of the Egyptian slave-drivers cannot be considered terrorism. In the real world, a human or animal that slays children is unforgivable, but no Biblical scholar (religious or non-religious) would agree that God acted unjustly within the diegesis of the Bible.

    The argument that the Passover ceremony leads to the Israeli settlement controversy is fallacious. Jews have been celebrating Passover long before Israel was a state and even longer than Israel started its controversial settlement policy. Many Jews (indeed, many Israelis) are not in favor of the settlements. Furthermore, the Passover ceremony is about the Exodus from Egypt and the freedom from slavery and has virtually nothing to do with covenant between the God and the Jews over the Land of Israel, which took place generations before the Exodus.

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