Friday, March 25, 2011

Rules, guilt, and seders

I listened to the latest podcast of Vox Tablet recently as I drove a short distance from my office to pick up some lunch. Vox Tablet is the audio arm of Tablet Magazine, "a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture." While I don't read the online magazine that often, I do listen to the podcasts frequently. I like the host Sarah Irvi. She's smart and spunky.

So this week's episode is about Cokie Roberts, of NPR fame, who -- surprise! -- is married to a Jewish man. Cokie was raised Catholic, and married her culturally-but-not-at-all-religiously-Jewish husband Steve Roberts in the 1960s. Trying to figure out a way to integrate Judaism into their home, Cokie was the one who decided that they should have a seder. And the rest, as they say, is history. They just published a new book, a haggadah actually, called Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families.

Back at the office, I'd eaten my lunch, and I was strangely annoyed. And trying to figure out why.

These are my thoughts. It's one thing to say -- I'm culturally Jewish, and I'm going to have a Passover seder, and that's all I'm going to do -- and keep it to yourself. But to put it out there as a model of what people should do? It feels unfair to me. Judaism is a lot more than conducting a Passover seder. How about all the laws, all the rules, all the guilt? (especially all the guilt?)

I don't know. This whole thing sounded like a white-wash, if you will, of what Judaism really is. Judaism isn't just a Passover seder, for goodness sakes. Sure, a seder is a good thing. But what about cleaning for Passover? Changing the dishes? Buying the Kosher for Passover foods? Purging the house of all the chametz? And so on? Passover is huge, and takes a month or more of preparation. It isn't just a seder.

I realize that this is ironic coming from me, the one who breaks all the rules. But is it better to break the rules knowing what they are, than to blithely do some rituals, not even knowing about the rest?

Or here's another example that I vaguely remember from my past: is it better to eat a cheeseburger knowing that you are breaking the rules of kashrut (and having decided to break the rules) than to do it unknowingly?

That's the issue.

1 comment:

Chava the riveter said...

I love this post. I, a convert to Reform Judaism, felt the same way when I heard that interview. I sort of said to myself make a choice for your own sake and then live it, don't advertise it. I rarely discuss my conversion with my Catholic relative, not because I am ashamed but because it is intensely personal and I cannot be an example to them. I do not invite them to Seder, but will not turn them away if they ask. I guess it all falls in that Evangelical mode that I am uncomfortable with in any religion.