This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Does Passover have an afterlife – life after permanently oppressing another people?
I doubt it.
If we aren’t play acting Passover – fried artichoke hearts, gefilte fish, vintage wine and alike – and if the Passover inversion as a biting indictment of Israeli empowerment and Jewish enablement of injustice is simply too much for Passover gatherers to bear, perhaps its best to simply abandon Passover. Why not eat leavened bread galore and enjoy the fruits of Israeli and American power with a clear conscience?
Like everyone else Jews want our power and our innocence, too. Thus our glossy invites to the endless and empty interfaith gatherings that offer mutual self-congratulation as the hors d’oeuvres. The main course that follows is equally self-congratulatory.
Isn’t it swell that Christians finally learned that Jesus’ love offers a mutual embrace rather enslavement and ethnic cleansing! Congratulations Christians!
No doubt when the permanent ghettoization of the Palestinians is signed and delivered, Jews will likewise relish the innocence that other conquerors find so pleasing to claim. Congratulations Jews!
I doubt it will be so easy for Jews in the long run. Christians rest easy in their salvation – at least that is their public claim. Christians solved the instability Jews – and the Jewish God – represent. Salvation (conveniently) ends the prophetic. Justice becomes an item on the Christian bucket-list.
With Easter on the Passover horizon, I know the dispute within the Christian community via liberation theology continues. But as some Christians have noticed, liberation theology is based on the Exodus story, the primordial prophetic stirrings of ancient Israel. If Christians adopt the Passover as their origins, fine and good. Whatever the Christian spin, welcome back to the (Jewish) fold.
Here’s the irony: Jews need Passover today like Christians need salvation – to be diverted from the injustice we are enabling. Has Passover become our (Christian) salvation? A faux prophetic trope to banish the unstable Jewish prophetic?
Using Passover as our salvation doesn’t work. Too many Jews work through the hypocrisy represented in the slave narratives as we raise our wine glasses when others are being enslaved by us – at this very moment!
The Passover Seder as we know it was formulated when Jews were the down-and-outs of Christian empire. It’s only in the post-Holocaust era that Jews, as a collective, have been empowered as we recall the Exodus story. Getting tipsy at Passover is supposed to be struggling for liberation. It isn’t about forgetting who we have become.
Like the difference of Christians believing in salvation when they were being persecuted and when they are empire leaders, the Passover power-equation means everything. Maybe we Jews no longer deserve the Passover story. Or do we simply need to learn its real meaning again – from others?
The prospects of resurrecting Passover seem dim. Mostly Passover will continue to exist in the Constantinian Jewish halls of economic and political power, in our Holocaust sanctuaries and in our narrow-minded Hillel’s. For Jews of Conscience only Passover fragments will remain.
To be found alongside the Eucharistic fragments that were born in Occupied Palestine so long ago?
Passover afterlife. Even an Easter resurrection won’t do.