Last night, my housemates and I threw a by-the-seat-of-our-pants Seder. It’s the first one I’ve ever been to (assuming watching Shari Lewis’s on TV didn’t count). And plenty of it was un-orthodox (small o) starting with what we had standing in for a lamb shank on the Seder plate.
Our Seder party was about evenly split between Christians and Jews, and the Christians tended to be more theistic than some of the Jews, which prompted the following (paraphrased) exchange between the Seder leader and some of the Christians:
Seder Leader: Ok, and on the next page of the Haggadah…
Christian: Wait, wait, you’re skipping one of the blessings offered to God at the bottom of the page
Seder Leader: Meh. I don’t care about that one.
Christian (after muttering the English translation of the blessing): Next year I’m going to bring an ultra-orthodox Rabbi to Seder to co-lead it with you.
Me: The ultra-orthodox rabbi isn’t even going to be ok sitting on a couch next to [Seder Leader], let alone co-leading the Seder with her.
We had a very long Seder, with a lot of breaks for discussions or arguments or modifications (like the feminist orange on the Seder plate). And then dinner, to which I contributed dessert.
Here are some of the things I have previously cooked: peanut butter toast (which is just toasted bread that you spread peanut butter on, and which my friends tell me does not count). Also, pasta (but I didn’t make the sauce, I just boiled water, added noodles, and then, eventually, removed the noodles).
But I’ve decided to try being anti-gnostic, and the best practice I can think of is cooking (which always seems like way too much time spent in slavery to the demands of the physical body), so I made chocolate-caramel matzo.
The arguing over religion and philosophy and ethics didn’t really make this night different from all other nights at my house, but here’s the question we spent the most time on, and I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments (or email me if they’re long enough for a guest post).
Why would God repeatedly harden Pharoah’s heart to prevent him from allowing the Jews to leave Egypt?
It came up in the Seder reading and I’d already been thinking of it when I heard parts of Exodus read at the Easter Vigil (the bits where the Egyptian soldiers want to flee and God hobbles their chariots so they can be drowned for the greater glory of God). Everyone at the Seder, Jewish and Christian, felt fairly uncomfortable with these parts of the story and no one seemed to find these deaths glorious. To me, it’s always sounded like God callously harming people for a dramatic flourish.
If you’re religious, how do you deal with this part of the Torah/the Bible?