Saturday, April 07, 2012
The PC Hijacking of Passover
House. Obama claims he has celebrated Passover each year since being
elected, and issues Passover messages filled with clichés and slogans.
In this year's clichés Obama pronounces that Passover is about the
triumph of hope over despair, of faith over doubt, and similar
nonsensical tripe (see also
) In fact Passover is more a celebration of the annihilation of
anti-Semites, and the victory of Judaism over shallow paganism.
American assimilationist liberals, or asslibs, have long tried to
deconstruct Passover as an artillery piece for their liberal fads.
Political seders are all the rage, with leftist non-Jewish guests
joining the political outpourings at these "Seders." The irony is
that the real Passover celebrations as defined by the Torah are those
in which no non-Jew may even participate or partake of the food. The
"universal" holiday in which gentiles are welcome to join is Succot,
The PC Make-Over of Passover (reprint)
By: Steven Plaut
Monday, April 05, 2004
The Jewish Left distorts the meaning of a sacred Jewish holiday.
In recent years, Passover has undergone a make-over in the American
Jewish non-Orthodox community, one that has converted it largely into
a holiday devoted to celebrating human rights, protesting a long list
of human rights abuses and promoting fashionable causes. The remake
seems designed to make Passover a cosmopolitan holiday, one with a
universal message in which all can join, in essence the Jewish answer
to the Declaration of the Rights of Man of the French Revolution.
Back in the 1960s, a series of Political Correctness Haggadahs were
written, in which the message of Passover was turned into a
celebration of the civil rights movement in the United States. Arthur
Waskow, the guru of the Tikkun-"Renewal" crowd, wrote at the time a
Black Liberation Passover Haggadah, celebrating black militants like
the Black Panthers, who were themselves coincidentally calling at the
time for the extermination of Jews. Later Political Correctness
Haggadahs were devoted to homosexual rights, women's liberation, and
assorted other faddish causes, not least of which was Palestinian
"liberation." No doubt, this year will see Abandon Iraq and Restore
Saddam Haggadot or No War for Oil ones. "Multicultural" Passover
seders became fashionable in some circles, in which the seder became a
mixture of acclamations for human rights and freedom, taken from a
wide variety of non-Jewish sources.
As yet another illustration, a few years back, the Passover cause
celebre of American Jewish liberals was Tibet, with Tibetan officials
invited to Passover seders, and where the leftist Religious Action
Center (RAC) of the Reform synagogue movement called on Jews to hold
Tibetan-freedom Passover seders in solidarity with Tibet. The RAC is
devoted to the proposition that Jewish values are nothing more and
nothing less than this year's leftist political fads, including gay
"marriage," supporting affirmative action apartheid programs, and
opposing all welfare reform. Its head, Rabbi David Saperstein was
quoted with approval a few years back by the American Communist
Party's weekly newspaper.
In all of these attempts to recast Passover as the celebration of
human rights, the Professional Liberals of the American Jewish
Establishment (or PLAJEs, for short) seem to be overlooking one little
point. And that is that Passover has absolutely nothing to do with
human rights and is not at all a celebration of human freedom. Not
that there is anything wrong with celebrating human rights, mind you.
I would certainly not object to creating such a holiday, and my
personal preference would be to hold it on Hiroshima Day, the day in
which the A-bomb saved countless human lives and created the
conditions by which freedoms could be extended to many millions of
For the record, Passover is the celebration of Jewish national
liberation. It is one of three such Jewish holidays devoted entirely
to celebrating Jewish national liberation, the other two being Hannuka
and Purim, and Passover is the only one with Torah foundations. It is
not the celebration of generic civil rights, nor even the celebration
of freedom and dignity for oppressed peoples around the globe. It is
the celebration of Jews achieving national self-determination and
taking their homeland back by force of arms.
The only role that human rights play in the story of Passover is in
showing that, under certain circumstances, human rights may be
trampled upon for the greater good - namely, for Jewish national
liberation. In order to achieve Jewish national liberation, God ran
roughshod over the human rights of the Egyptians. He afflicted them
with a series of plagues. He then killed all Egyptian first-born.
While Pharaoh no doubt deserved everything he got, the entire Egyptian
people were completely innocent, hardly responsible for Pharaoh's
human rights abuses, subjects of collateral damages. They paid the
price for Pharaoh's crimes and God saw this as necessary and just. The
innocent first-born of all these innocent Egyptian parents, no doubt
themselves nearly as badly treated by Pharaoh as the Hebrew slaves,
were killed. And while it is not clear, apparently the first-born of
the non-Jewish slaves were also innocent victims. And then, even the
first-born of the animals in Egypt were killed, a development that
would no doubt have driven Professor Richard Schwartz and the animal
rights movement to hysterical outrage. What on earth did those poor
animals do to deserve such a punishment?
While all of the above involve the Almighty's decision to violate the
legitimate human rights of the Egyptian people, human rights abuses in
the Passover story are not restricted to the divine. The Jewish
slaves, before taking to the road, also take away the wealth and
savings of the Egyptian people. While Pharaoh no doubt owed them some
back wages, this wealth was in essence being taken from the innocent
Ordinary Egyptians, and not necessarily only from the yuppie upper
Incidentally, the poor sons of Haman, the 75 thousand or so Persians
who get killed and the others who have their property confiscated by
the Jews according to the Scroll of Esther, and all those innocent
Greek Seleucid Republican Guards getting knocked off by the Maccabee
Green Berets are other examples of human rights going out the window
when Jewish national liberation and independence is pursued.
Passover is, of course, hardly a glorification of these human rights
abuses. It is simply a celebration of Jewish national liberation even
when it was pre-conditioned upon a certain necessary amount of moral
tradeoffs and realpolitik. The lesson is clear: When there is no
choice, squeamishness over the "human rights" of innocent people is
out of place. The human rights of the Egyptians in the story of Exodus
count for no more than the human rights of innocent Germans and
Japanese getting the hell bombed out of them in World War II, or
innocent residents of Baghdad getting bombed by the Coalition forces.
Such things are necessary in the real world. Human rights sometimes
need to be compromised to protect Jews and achieve Jewish
self-determination and other goals.
All of which is of course lost upon all those self-righteous PLAJEs
whining about Israel shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at the Arab
rioters and the fascist Palestinian hordes. And the lesson that
innocent humans sometimes must be abused and have their rights
compromised will no doubt serve as a refreshing reminder for all those
urchins marching in the current "peace marches" in solidarity with
Iran and the Hamas.
The real lesson of Passover is that Jewish national liberation and
freedom do not come cheaply. The real world involves difficult choices
and moral compromises and tradeoffs. Achieving a higher moral end
often involves taking steps that would themselves be abusive or
immoral on their own grounds, but are required in order to achieve the
greater good. Such tradeoffs are the stuff with which moral posturers
and self-righteous practitioners of recreational compassion cannot
deal. It does not fit into their simplistic worldview and lazy
It is the great tragedy of the American Jewish community, or at least
the non-Orthodox majority therein, that it is so overwhelmingly
dominated by assimilated Professional Liberals and self-righteous
practitioners of recreational liberal compassion, people whose
understanding of political tradeoffs and public policy analysis never
go any deeper than a good bumper sticker.
2. Passover and Unanswered Questions (reprint from 2008)
13 Tamuz 5768 - Wednesday, July 16th, 2008
(In 2008, shortly before Tu B'Shvat, Steven Plaut's
younger brother David, a"h, died suddenly at the age of 53. The
following is a text Steven prepared for delivery at a memorial service
for his brother in May in New Hampshire, but which he begged off from
reading publicly there at the last minute.)
There are two characteristics unique to humans in the universe,
separating them from the animal kingdom and perhaps also
differentiating them from anything in the higher or trans-natural
world. One characteristic is well appreciated in Jewish tradition, the
other less so.
Simply put, humans appear to be the only creatures in the universe who
ask questions and also the only beings who laugh.
The uniqueness of human inquisitiveness and curiosity has
long been understood in Judaism. Curiosity in the animal world is very
unusual and essentially restricted to interest in finding food or
mates. Animals do not feel any need to understand "why." In a realm
higher than the earthly, one that transcends the mundane, there would
also be no need to ask why, because there the answers would already be
Human infants enter the world with a drive to ask why even before they
can actually speak. The "why" question is uniquely human, and also one
of the most central aspects of Judaism. Consider Passover, in many
ways the most important event of the Jewish calendar. The Passover
Seder is organized around the asking of why.
While the Haggadah's Four Questions are asked in part to keep the
attention of children, this is not their only function. At a Seder
where no children are present, it is still a religious commandment to
ask the Four Questions, with a designated adult doing the asking. Even
if someone is alone for Passover, he must ask himself the questions.
One has not fulfilled the religious obligation without asking them.
Yet despite the central importance of the questions in the Passover
ritual, there is one all-important fact that seems to be almost
universally overlooked: No answers are provided to the Four Questions.
To be more precise, two of the four get answered in part, while the
other two are never answered at all. The text of the Haggadah has no
answer to the question about eating while leaning or about dipping the
vegetables. There are of course explanations for these, but they are
not part of the actual text. More generally, the question about why
the night is different from all others is also not explicitly
answered, unless one regards the entire Haggadah as a composite
Not only do the Four Questions remain unanswered at the end of the
Seder, the fact that they went unanswered does not nullify one's
obligation to ask them all over again the following year.
In other words, the central religious obligation is the asking of
questions, even when they remain unanswered. There is a crucial lesson
in this about human existence and the nature of the world. Humans are
driven, indeed commanded, to ask, but there is never any guarantee
that the questions will ever be answered. Unanswered questions are in
a very important sense the very essence of the natural universe.
Curiously, attitudes toward unanswered questions also seem to govern
philosophical thinking in other areas, especially science. There is
the minority school of thought called Intelligent Design, proponents
of which see a supernatural guiding hand in the fact that biology
cannot explain the origin of life and because there are holes in the
theory of evolution. For such people, God's existence — or at least
Intelligent Design — is demonstrated for the world in unanswerable
scientific questions. The sharpest critics of Intelligent Design are
atheistic scientists who argue just the opposite. They insist the very
fact that some unanswered questions have been answered scientifically
over time proves that one need not appeal to theology to explain the
A third point of view might object that every discovery of a
scientific answer to a natural mystery raises many new, unanswered
Will the unanswered questions multiply in the future like in a Malthus
model, rising at a faster rate than the discovery of scientific
answers, or will they slow down, allowing humans to someday understand
the natural universe? This itself is just one more unanswered
I suppose the Jewish approach has always been that the Divine is
evident not in the failure of science to find answers or, for that
matter, in its successes, but rather in the drive to ask the
questions. Questioning, whether it results in answers or not, is the
manifestation of the Divine in our world.
I do not think humans can rationally conceive of a world in which
there is a God who allowed the Holocaust to take place. But at the
same time we cannot conceive of a universe in which there is no God at
all, no Creator, a universe that simply popped out of a space smaller
than the head of a pin for no reason and with no cause – the
explanation that seems to be the current apogee of scientific thought
about the universe and the Big Bang.
In other words, humans cannot conceive of the Universe at all. The
universe remains a set of unanswered questions, and many may remain
unanswered forever. This is all the more true at the levels of
individual human existence. We cannot conceive of a universe in which
random probability and purposeless mixing of molecules could
mathematically produce a human child. Are there reasons for seemingly
unconnected events? Is there such a thing as true randomness? What is
life? What is death? Will we ever know?
Again, the manifestation of the Divine is in the asking of the
questions, not in their being answered.
The other manifestation of the Divine in human uniqueness — or so it
seems to me — is in laughter and humor. The human is the only creature
that laughs, that sees funniness in the world and in earthly
situations and ideas. And while the written Torah is largely devoid of
humor, the Talmud is filled with it, along with sarcasm and even
Does God have a sense of humor? How could He Not? Could there be an
infinite Being incapable of understanding human sensations and
insights, unable to grasp what humans themselves see and feel? How
could God not get the joke?
This is not to say that God needs to "feel" the humor or to laugh.
Maimonides insisted God feels nothing and is beyond feeling, so all
discussion of God's anger, love, impatience, sadness, enjoyment, etc.,
is at best allegorical, and such terms applied to the Infinite are
simply mortal terms of reference to help us understand bits and pieces
of the world.
If God comprehends human feelings, He must understand humor and
laughter. And it follows that humor must serve a Divine purpose. Humor
and laughter are uniquely human. If humans are made in God's image,
there must be some humor involved in the engineering of the universe.
Its presence in the world must be another manifestation of the Divine
And when we appreciate an irony or laugh at a good joke, we are
serving a purpose. Medical doctors say laughter improves health and
extends life – a finding anticipated by King Solomon who observed, "A
merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
How do unanswered questions combine with humor in this world? Perhaps
the humor is there to take away some of the frustration at being
unable to find answers to questions, to blunt some of the blows.
Perhaps the asking of unanswerable questions and our pleasure in
laughter are two manifestations of the quest for human happiness, of
the seeking of contentment amid the hardships and bitterness of life.
Or must that also remain an unanswerable question?
3. In its special holiday edition, Haaretz greeted Passover this year
by running an interview celebrating Neo-Nazi Norman Finkelstein.