Wednesday, April 09, 2008

We Want To Know

Passover is in a few weekends. Its the only jewish holiday and jewish mitzvah I really perform. Something draws me to it, and I love it for its complexity and its paradoxical combination of history, structure, and oppenness. From outside the tradition imagine if every year the highest, holiest of masses was entirely scripted, rescripted, and performed by lay people and specifically women and children, who were urged both to study the traditional texts, reflect on this year's events, and project themselves and their issues onto the fundamental covenant with g-d? To me its like a web or a piece of clothing which we are all, simultaneously, designing, imagining, weaving, admiring, wearing, and sharing.

In getting ready--which consists of mundane tasks like realizing I don't have chairs or seating for 22 adults and 8 children, doing the cooking with the four hour wait between finishing and actually serving the meal in mind, digging out my haggadahs and planning things for the children to do--I always find myself learning something new and wanting to start the whole process over again to focus the Seder on this new idea.

Just yesterday, while reading the Velveteen Rabbi's haggadah (which she was kind enough to put on line) I came across this marvellous poem, by a friend of my mother's (oddly enough), and it has brought me to a standstill with its perfect, lapidary, distillation of a peculiarly jewish relationship with g-d and the written word, with the writer and the world. I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate it into the Seder but I wanted to share it with you guys. I'm not crazy about the lack of punctuation, but it certainly renders it more open to interpretation.

Like a skin on milk
I write to you

I hurl the letters of your name
onto every page, one and many

I know you are reading over my shoulder
look each of us possesses a book of life

each attempts to read what the other has scripted
in these almost illegible letters tipped by crowns

what is the story
we want to know
--Alicia Ostriker