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eJudaism: Why, For This Holiday, Are There Four Posts? (Part 1/4)

04/11/2022 03:56:59 PM


Michael Greenfield

You know that section at the end of the Passover Seder with the songs about God that sound like drinking songs? Yeah, those are drinking songs. They come - depending on your family traditions - hours or minutes after the Four Questions, the Four Children, and the Four Cups of Wine. Wine gladdens the heart according to the Psalms of David, our #1 partying king, but our kings don't get a mention in Who Knows One?, a song celebrating God, Torah, covenant, law, and ancestors much more important than kings.

Part 1: We're going to need more matriarchs.

Who knows four? Four are the matriarchs - Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah - whose names we invoke when we want God to look upon us more kindly than we might deserve. I'm with them!, we say during Tefilah hoping that counts for something.

Sally Priesand became the first female rabbi ordained at a rabbinical seminary (HUC-JIR) 50 years ago this June. We've rewritten a lot since then. Literally. We rewrote the Hebrew of Tefilah to invoke the matriarchs daily instead of just annually in the Seder drinking songs, but there's so much more to do before we reach gender parity. The point of a Seder is to tell the story of our redemption from slavery to freedom. Everything else on the table and in the Haggadah is just there to make that story more interesting. And the point of telling that story is the most often repeated mantra of the Torah: Be kind to the stranger in your midst because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

The Haggadah is a bumpers-up version of bowling - veer in any and every direction you want on the way to the pins, you can't go wrong. Tell the stories that teach others how to see - truly see - the matriarchs whose bumpers kept you from the gutter. And go further. Tell the stories of the unseen among us who brought you from slavery to freedom, or brought others and whom you admire from afar. And, sure, give a shout-out to Big Matriarchy as you're swinging your stein of Manischewitz during Who Knows One. They are the OG fierce women, and when we celebrate them, we begin to teach our daughters and our sons to see everyone in our midst.


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Fri, June 21 2024 15 Sivan 5784