Shalom Auslander’s column, “A ‘fallen Jew’ on what to read this Passover” is so full of mistakes and misconceptions it more properly should have appeared in the column on the same page of the Outlook section entitled “myths.” It could have been called “Auslander’s myths about Passover,” and refuted his points.
Contrary to what he asserts, as any Jew, even “fallen Jews”, (a term which I have never heard before) know, the story is not about any one single man, but rather the emergence of a people from bondage. The point of Passover is for each and every Jew to feel as though he or she was a slave in Egypt and was liberated. We are called upon to have compassion and to identify with what it means when others do not enjoy freedom. We are reminded that in each and every generation there have been those who sought to destroy and annihilate the Jewish people.
Passover invites each participant to engage in a dialogue with oneself and one’s heritage, with contemporary concepts and ancient, time-honored traditions, to explore issues of identity and meaning, to interact with the dialectic between the potentially conflicting pulls of particularism and universalism and to counteract complacency.
I find it surprising that a novelist, one who deals in metaphor and meaning is so trapped by literalism that he dismisses the greater significance of the holiday and misses the power of the metaphors and symbolism of the story.
The Passover story has inspired countless other oppressed peoples throughout the ages. At our seder we sing the spiritual sung by African slaves brought in slavery to this country who saw in the deliverance of the Hebrew slaves a message of hope, reminding us of the role Judaism has played throughout history. I recall when I was a youngster in the 1960’s family seders when we read the story and understood the imperative to support the civil rights movement and to work for social justice.
Maybe the problem isn’t so much with Passover, but the seders Auslander attended.
Also published on Medium.