Jan 3 2014
“Lamentations over the Death of the Firstborn of Egypt” by Charles Sprague Pearce
This post is part of our Torah commentary series through the perspective of a new mom. This Shabbat we read Parashat Bo. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
This week’s Torah portion is Bo. We read about the final plagues, culminating in the slaying of the Egyptian firstborn.
I often like to interpret Torah metaphorically. I love the Hassidic tradition of reading Torah as a sort of psychological analogue for what’s happening inside us all the time. For me, this is a way of connecting to Torah as a story that’s happening continually, rather than an ancient document that may or may not have taken place.
But sometimes there is a story so literal and vivid that to metaphorize it feels like a cop-out. For example, the slaying of the firstborn.
The 10 plagues always felt kind of removed from me–sort of magical and not relatable, like a fairy tale. Now, reading as a new mom, the words “slaying of the firstborn” feel very, very real. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 27 2013
This post is part of our Torah commentary series through the perspective of a new mom. This Shabbat we read Parashat Vaera. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
This week’s portion, Vaera, contains seven of the 10 plagues that God sends Egypt to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.
After each plague, Pharaoh begins to relent, but then he (or, weirdly, God) “hardens his heart” and decides he actually does need those Israelite slaves after all. And so the plagues increase, all the way into next week’s portion.
Reading about these plagues and Pharaoh’s resistance to let those Israelites go, I thought about how hard it is to change after a long time. What does it take to convince a stubborn person to loosen their grip, to be more gentle, to change their life? And why do I feel so sympathetic to Pharaoh even though he’s clearly the bad guy here? Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 21 2013
So, is it wrong if I just change the Passover story a little bit?
Fresh from the library, I snuggled up on the couch with my (firstborn) son as we opened up a children’s book about Passover. After attempting to explain what slavery was –”They had to work very hard and never got to rest or play” we came to the section about the 10 plagues. With my son nestled against my arm, suddenly a lump formed in my throat. After reading about frogs and locusts, I skipped the tenth plague–the death of the first born. I just couldn’t read it.
My son is at the age where nothing gets past him. Every word he doesn’t understand gets questioned. And how on earth would I explain that one? Especially after I just yelled at him for pushing his baby sister. I mean, how can I teach him to be nice to his sister, if God is killing firstborn children? Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 8 2013
Fun or frightening?
Sometimes the most thought-provoking questions aren’t posed by our writers, but rather, by our readers. And so it was that last week, after Kveller posted on Facebook about a free Passover giveaway of nail decals illustrated with pictures of the 10 plagues that one reader commented, “I was just wondering if I was the only one who thinks death and destruction aren’t cute…Which finger should we put the dead babies on?”
Yikes. And…touché. Read the rest of this entry →
May 2 2012
Passover is but a distant memory–I’ve returned the matzah beach ball to its storage box, the seder plate to the top of the fridge, the boxes of matzah to the dusty back of the pantry to await their eventual destruction in the food processor, when I need bread crumbs for meatloaf.
And yet there’s another Passover tradition that we’re still playing out. You see, for three years running now, we’ve joined our wonderful friend Judy at her home in the beautiful, tempting ‘burbs for a kid-only seder, held on an afternoon just before or after the real thing. It’s always fun, flooded with light instead of dragging into the wee hours, with a matzah lasagna as the center feature. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 2 2012
You too can have sticky frogs to entertain the kids at your seder.
If you’re inviting children to your seder, it’s always nice to have a few fun things planned for them. Sure we all love belting out all eleven verses of Chad Gadya at the top of our lungs (anybody?) but it is a long meal with lots of adult talking going on. Last year our friends hosted a seder and had adorable plague masks for the children to pick out and wear. It was a great addition that made the meal more kid-friendly.
This year I came up with a little favor for the kids at your Passover table. And for less than $1 per child it provides endless entertainment. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 30 2012
My son acting out his role as Pharaoh.
This past Sunday, I brought home six pizzas and enough Girl Scout cookies to supply a store (oh, Tagalongs and Thin Mints–is it not latent anti-Semitism that your annual sale always falls just before Passover?) No, I was not hosting a Mad Men party. Instead, seven children under 8-years-old, their parents (my sisters and their husbands), and my brother and his wife were coming over to prepare, perform, and film The Second Annual Family Passover Video.
Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday. Trust me, I have no fondness for pre-Passover cleaning (or cleaning generally – just ask my neat-freak husband). And no, I do not feel that cardboard, aka “matzah,” bears any resemblance whatsoever to food. Cooking with cottonseed oil for a week is insanity: cotton should be worn, not eaten. And don’t get me started on the whole corn oil/peanut bullshit. Really, just don’t go there. Read the rest of this entry →