My misgivings about Pesach started in 1982. I was about 7 or 8 years old, and my ballet teacher was holding special holiday workshops to teach “rhythmic gymnastics”. For those of you that missed out on rhythmic gymnastics, it’s the art of running around with ribbons attached to sticks and making them wave around in sinuous and flowing ways. To 8-year-old me it was the ultimate desirable activity in the world, making flowy ribbon movements, and all I wanted was permission to skip school for three days and go wave ribbons around.
But. The three days fell around the time of the school seder, and the headmaster of the school felt it would be detrimental to my Jewish schooling to miss this important occasion. No amount of pleading or arguing seemed to convince him that I didn’t MIND missing the school seder; in fact I was HAPPY to do so. And, anyway, it wasn’t even really on Pesach – I would still go to our family seder, wouldn’t I? But he would have none of it, and for some reason, my parents weren’t taking my side on this one.
So I sat miserably in the school hall, tempted to weep my own salty tears over the boiled eggs and matzoh, knowing that I was missing what was undoubtedly the coolest three days in extracurricular history. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that the weird god that thought it was okay to send down plagues of blood, boils, frogs and other nice stuff on the Egyptians, and then kill all their firstborn sons (though spare the girls; hardly punishes a nation to kill its girls, does it?) – that this guy probably didn’t really give a damn whether I was going off to rhythmic gymnastics or singing songs over soggy matzoh.
In subsequent years, my misgivings about Pesach have lessened. It’s an annual pageant. There’s no historical or archaeological evidence the Jews were ever slaves in Egypt. (Please. Jews have such problems with authority. Who would want one as a slave?) Even if there were evidence that pointed towards it, I’m out of the atheist closet these days, and know that any slavery and emancipation had less to do with the vengeance or grace of a nasty god than it did the vagaries of politics at the time. Nope, it’s all about matzoh balls, really.
So Kolya had his first encounter with unleavened bread, which means that the carpet got indundated with crumbled Mosmarks matzoh. And mushy kneidlach. And on Sunday he’ll have his first Easter egg hunt, and hopefully the chocolate and marshmallow won’t get too melty in the South African sun. We won’t terrify him with stories of crucifixion or resurrection quite yet – ‘cos we all know it’s only about chocolate bunnies. Happy holidays, folks.