Passover Questions

Below is the latest entry in the “Preparing for Passover” Blog written by participants in JOI’s Mothers Circle Program:

I’ve started preparing for Passover in the last week or so, and in keeping with my Passover resolution for this year, I’m trying to enjoy the process (and not focus too much on feeling overwhelmed by the preparations). I’m planning a seder with two other families, both of which happen to include Israelis. As my husband pointed out, at least now we’ll learn how to pronounce everything. I read the Jewish 101 Passover faq, which actually made the whole enterprise seem less complicated. I finished reading it and thought, well, surely we can get through that much, even with the nanosecond attention span of the younger members of our family. Another friend of mine shared her secret for getting through all of the preparations without losing her mind…she hires a cleaning service and buys the Passover dinner offered by one of our local grocery stores. Brilliant!

So, feeling better about my chances of avoiding a mommy meltdown this year, I was left to Google a few other Passover links. I thought I might get a jump on a question I know will be coming from my myth-obsessed older son…”did this really happen?” How do other families deal with this question? I know it’s part of a larger conversation–it seems to me that any religious tradition must always wrestle with the question of symbolic stories versus literal truth. Passover, however, seems to present a concise example for this conundrum. The archaeological and historical evidence that my (admittedly cursory) search turned up seemed spotty at best. There is a scroll that was found in the 19th century that seems to corroborate some of the story, and some sites listed evidence from various digs in Egypt. I suspect, however, that the physical evidence could be read to support more than one view of events, and the scroll sounded a bit suspect. I realize that to an adult the evidence (or lack thereof) may not be the point, but kids (at least mine) think more literally. Did it happen? Does it matter?

1 Comment

  1. To me, it matters very much that we tell our kids the truth as we understand it, in an age-appropriate way. I don’t think we should evade the question of history if it comes up. I think kids can understand intuitively that stories are powerful even if they are not literally true. When kids get excited about myths, I think it shows that they understand how a factually false story can have truth in it, can make some kind of moral sense that illuminates the human condition. It can also tell you a lot about the real people who wrote down the story.

    With questions being a highlight of the seder and indeed of Judaism, it seems like a great time to honor tradition by asking things such as — is it literally true? What evidence would you accept to answer that question? If it’s not literally true, why have people been celebrating this holiday for so long?

    Comment by Theresa — March 11, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

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