2013-03-29 – We have a peculiar Seder in my family. This year at my cousin’s, since our kitchen is still being remodeled.
Yes, we do the normal things: the four questions, the wine, the bitter herb, the matzoh. We talk about the wise son, the wicked son, the simple son, and the one who is unable to ask. But at my Seders, we also have the bizarre son.
Where the wicked son asks, “what is this to you?” the bizarre son says “I know what you are hiding.” And what we are hiding, apparently, is a taste for human sacrifice. The reasoning is a little obscure, but our bizarre son traces many of the rituals of the Passover Seder to a suppressed undercurrent that the god Yahweh demands human sacrifice.
This is very peculiar, particularly since our bizarre son is a student of the holocaust and well knows of the blood libels of history, when Jews were falsely accused of sacrificing Christian children to fulfill the obligations of the Passover.
People at our Seders humor our bizarre son. We let him have his say and move on. In the words of the sages: “when do we eat?”
I was chuckling over the memory of this year’s Seder today, when I realized that it is Good Friday. A day that commemorates . . . a human sacrifice.
And, of course, the Crucifixion is not the only human sacrifice (or attempted sacrifice) recorded in the Bible. The father of our people Abraham tried this not once but twice – all in the space of a couple pages in the Bible. He first sends his son Ishmael to an (almost) certain death in the desert. Then he takes his son Isaac to be sacrificed on the altar, only to have his hand stayed at the last moment.
Of course, the point of these stories is supposed to show revulsion of the act. Our bizarre son believes that our ritual reflects the opposite, an attraction to death.
But our observances are really ambiguous.
We send our sons off to war. We revere weapons of war. Yet we fear death.
And we tremble.
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