Old folk at lunch

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pesach seder (Passover celebration)

I went to my first seder last night. It was with a local Conservative congregation so there was lots of Hebrew chanted and sung -- and we used an Orthodox haggadah (order of service). I enjoyed it. It was a relaxed and happy occasion, as it should be. We even had some very pleasant Israelis present.

The haggadah was read out loud by various people during the seder and it was mostly read in English. During the reading I was at one stage called on without warning to read a paragraph, which I was of course delighted to do and immediately did. I actually took an active part in the seder rather than being a total visitor. It is lucky I was following what was being read, though!

Will I attend another seder one day? Perhaps. I am not religious so that is a counterindication. But I enjoy Biblical exegesis (rigorous interpretation) so if an opportunity came up to attend one in very scholarly company I would be keen. I have only a Christian knowledge of the Torah so I would appreciate a deeper discussion of it. But there are no Yeshivot (Jewish Bible schools) in Brisbane so I am not holding my breath.

I would be particularly interested in an exegesis of Exodus 12: 43-49. On the face of it, the Lubavitchers have got it right and the seder should be restricted to Jews only. But, as with all good law, there is a loophole: verse 48. I would fail the loophole myself but there other cases where defining the exception would be interesting.

I think that I should in closing express my great appreciation of the inimitable Garek Fish, who led the Beit Knesset Shalom congregation through the seder ceremonies with thoroughly admirable gusto.

A note about the shul (synogogue) that I went to: Like Christianity, Judaism is very fractious, with all sorts of sects. Beit Knesset Shalom is nominally a Progressive shul but is apparently at the most conservative end of that definition. They had a breakaway or threatened breakaway a little while back from a group of members who thought they were not progressive enough.

Interesting that the usual word used for a synagogue is "shul", which really means "school". It is a small hint of the intellectual orientation of Judaism.

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