Cutting through the bullshit.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

'Let them come and eat'

Tonight Jews all over the world will commemorate the mythical emancipation of our ancestors from slavery in Egypt. The very first thing recited during the Passover Seder, immediately after the initial blessings over the wine and vegetable – ‘the fruit of the vine’ and ‘the fruit of the earth’, is the Aramaic Ha Lakhma:

This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover. This year [we are] here; next year in the land of Israel. This year [we are] slaves; next year [we will be] free people.

At the same time a celebration of freedom, an offer to share, and an ominous threat to occupy Palestine, it sends a rather ambiguous message. There is an implication that a diaspora Jew is a slave and can only achieve freedom in Israel.

Anyway, Desertpeace has beaten me to the punch, but it seems that those who are spending this year in Israel have a somewhat different plan in mind for the Palestinians in the West Bank than to invite them for a meal. Ynet reports

A full closure has been imposed on the West Bank starting Saturday night, and will be in effect for the remainder of Passover. The closure will be lifted following another security assessment after the holiday is over.

Of course Gaza is always under full lockdown, so no change there.

On a lighter note, I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that

Eight hundred years after the custom began the consensus among the Ashkenazi rabbis about the relevance of the prohibition of eating kitniyot has, for the first time, been broken: The rabbis of the “Religious Court of Machon Shilo” have published a ruling that allows Ashkenazim living in Israel to cease the custom.

Kitniyot is ‘pulses’, so, if you want to keep kosher this Pesach, and you accept the ruling of the Machon Shilo rabbis, and you’re an Ashkenazi, and you live in Israel, you’ll finally be able to have hummus at your seder this year. I know 800 years is a long time to wait, but I’m sure it was worth it.

The bad news is that, according to Israel’s Green Leaf marijuana legalisation party,

Cannabis is among the substances Jews are forbidden to consume during the week-long festival, which begins Monday, said Michelle Levine, a spokeswoman for the Green Leaf party.

Biblical laws prohibit eating leavened foods during Passover, replacing bread with flat crackers called matza. Later injunctions by European rabbis extended those rules to forbid other foods like beans and corn, and more recent rulings have further expanded the ban to include hemp seeds, which today are found in some health oils - and in marijuana.

Sorry about that. Obviously beer is out, too, but drink as much wine as you want. In fact, four glasses at the seder is de rigueur.

''You shouldn't smoke marijuana on the holiday, and if you have it in your house you should get rid of it,'' Levine said.

Actually, you mightn’t have to get rid of it. Traditionally, you can symbolically sell your khametz ‘leavened foods’ to a gentile. I couldn’t help noticing that the Chabad site where I found the text and translation of the Passover Hagaddah has a facility for selling your Khametz online.

If you happen to be of Sephardic extraction, however, neither of these prohibitions applies. Never has.

In other religious news,

A planned Holy Week exhibition of a nude, anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ was canceled Friday after Cardinal Edward Egan and other outraged Catholics complained.

The "My Sweet Lord" display was shut down by the hotel that houses the Lab Gallery in midtown Manhattan. Roger Smith Hotel president James Knowles cited the public outcry for his decision.

Matt Semler, the gallery's creative director, resigned in protest.

The hotel and the gallery were overrun Thursday with angry phone calls and e-mails about the exhibit. Semler said the calls included death threats over the work of artist Cosimo Cavallaro, who was described as disappointed by the decision to cancel the display.

Cavallaro is best known for his quirky work with food as art: Past efforts include repainting a Manhattan hotel room in melted mozzarella, spraying five tons of pepper jack cheese on a Wyoming home, and festooning a four-poster bed with 312 pounds of processed ham.

Finally, the latest Newsweek poll of 1004 Americans aged 18 and over conducted March 28-March 29, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, reveals some astonishing and disturbing facts about Americans.

Nearly half (48 percent) of the public rejects the scientific theory of evolution; one-third (34 percent) of college graduates say they accept the Biblical account of creation as fact.

Nine in 10 (91 percent) of American adults say they believe in God and almost as many (87 percent) say they identify with a specific religion. Christians far outnumber members of any other faith in the country, with 82 percent of the poll’s respondents identifying themselves as such.

Although one in ten (10 percent) of Americans identify themselves as having "no religion," only six percent said they don’t believe in a God at all. Just 3 percent of the public self-identifies as atheist.

Six in ten (62 percent) registered voters say they would not vote for a candidate who is an atheist…But the public is still split over whether religion has too much (32 percent) or too little (31 percent) influence on American politics. [my emphasis]

I’m not really sure whether it’s cause for optimism that they are so deluded and superstitious. After all, if they were smart and cluey, they could do a lot more damage. But then, delusion and superstition have provided a pretext for an awful lot of destruction already. And if they had the capacity to think things through rationally, maybe they’d act more sensibly and at least get rid of these neocons, if not overthrow the capitalist system outright.

Khag sameakh!


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  2. I didn't want to have to delete or moderate comments on this blog, but I just had a comment advertising a head shop and I guess that's where I draw the line. No commercial advertising on this blog, please. I will definitely delete it.