Sunday, March 28, 2010

What's in Your Haggadah?

Upon graduating from college, Shiksa Girlfriend and I found ourselves with some extra time on our hands. She being the industrious one quickly became gainfully employed. I being a tad more distractable, took longer. Luckily, some of this free time happened to coincide with the weeks leading up to Passover season, and so I decided to take it upon myself to write my own Haggadah for Passover.

That was three years ago. Every year we've done a seder (last year we did two), and it's always been tons of fun. We also keep Passover for the whole eight days, though, to be perfectly honest, we don't keep the restrictions on kitniyot, on the grounds of it being dumb as hell. (Incidentally, I'd like to give a simultaneous thank you and apology to Rabbi David Bar-Hayim, whose ruling that Ashkenazim in Israel should be exempt from the anti-kitniyot minhag have inspired me to misquote him three years running as abolishing the whole stupid process altogether)

Obviously, ignoring kitniyot and only avoiding grains gives us quite a bit more flexibility in our practice. For instance, in addition to old standards like roast chicken and fish, our first night menu will also include Vietnamese Salad Rolls. (Second night will be a bit more traditional-- to give Mama Yid a feeling of home, we're even making chopped chicken liver. Yes, Shiksa Girlfriend says it tastes like cat food, but what the hell, it's once a year.)

As people might guess, my flexible approach to Passover impacts more than just the menu. My first Haggadah was fairly traditional, if only because I wanted to have a chance to see what it was like with "everything" in there. I even transliterated the complete (short version) of Birkat HaMazon from the B'Kol Echad. But we also tried to keep things punchy and fun-- since I'm one of the only Jews there, I don't really need to show off. And I'd rather not have our guests feel like they're going to a theology lecture/ sociology in religion workshop. I see Passover as Jewish Thanksgiving with some highly specific traditions and stories. I'm cool with that.

Continuing the theme of the evolving Haggadah, the new version has a few changes, mostly designed to make things a little shorter. I took out "Pour Out Our Wrath/Love" section (too long and just generally odd) and cut Birkat down to a third, since the post-food stuff has tended to be where people get lost. SG wanted to cut Miriam's Well, but I lobbied to keep it in (I think the Elijah/Miriam contrast is kind of cool). We've also played a little bit with our Exodus story. Oh, and at SG's insistence, I cut Adir Hu down to only five verses, rather than the whole eight. I'm sure if God is as mighty as the song says, he won't mind.

Anyway, here is the Maggid section of our Smart Ass Haggadah Version 2.0. Enjoy and have a great Passover.

The Story of the Exodus

Once there was a famine in the land of Canaan. The Hebrews’ cattle had no grass to eat.

Cow #1: I’m starving. Moo.

Cow #2: I’m so hungry I could eat a horse. Moo.

Cow #1: I should eat you for that. Moo.

The Hebrews weren’t doing too well, either.

Asher: Hey, Dad, I’m hungry!

Naftali: Daaaad! We’re out of dates…and oil…and grain… and everything else!

Jacob: Kids, stop whining! Your brother Joseph is a big shot in Egypt. And, I hear they have food. Let’s go visit him for a while.

Jacob’s Kids: Yay!

Jacob: It’s a long way there, so use the bathroom first. I’m not stopping every five minutes.

In Egypt:

Joseph: Estranged family? What a surprise! Of course I’ll be glad to help out…Who wants dinner?

Generations passed and the Hebrews remained in Egypt. A new king came to power who mistrusted the strangers in his country.

Pharaoh: These Hebrews are a threat to our way of life. Let’s enslave them and use them to build things.

Hebrew #1: I wish this new pharaoh would just die!

Hebrew #2: Wouldn’t that just create more work for us?

Egyptian laborers: Hey, they’re taking our jobs!

Despite the harsh conditions of slavery, the Hebrews continued to grow in numbers. Fearing a slave rebellion, the Pharaoh ordered that the royal midwives to kill any male Hebrew infants at birth.

Pharaoh: Look here midwives, you get to be the front line for population control. I’m counting on you to keep the numbers down.

Shifrah and Puah: We hear and obey, oh great Pharaoh.
But they did not.

Pharaoh: Hey, why are there so many baby boys? I told you to take care of that.

Shifrah: By the time we get there…

Puah: They’ve squirted the little guys out.

Shifrah: And then it’s back to work at the pyramids. They’re really a remarkable people, sir.

The Pharaoh was annoyed.

Pharaoh: All Hebrew boys get dumped in the river from now on, got it?

One couple, named Amram and Yocheved, followed the decree to the letter.

Yocheved: I’m done waterproofing the basket. Let’s go drop the kid off.

Amram: God willing, the crocodiles have already eaten someone today.

Yocheved: Farewell, baby! Don’t rock the boat...basket!

The baby’s sister Miriam kept an eye on the basket as it drifted downstream.

Pharaoh’s daughter: Hey! What’s in that thing? It could be valuable. A baby! Aww, you’re so cute and pathetic.

Miriam: Hey Princess!

Pharaoh’s daughter: Yes?

Miriam: You won’t be able to nurse that kid; it’ll ruin your figure. Besides, he’s a Hebrew. They need special food, like goldfish. I’ll go find you a Hebrew nurse. Here, how about my Mom? She’s even nursing.

Pharaoh's daughter: Wow, that’s just plain convenient!

Miriam: Hmm, these Egyptians aren’t too bright.

Yocheved: Yeah, we should remember this.

The Pharaoh's daughter raised the baby as her own son, naming him Moshe, or Moses, because she “drew him from water.”

Pharaoh’s daughter: My first choice was Stinky, but Miriam said that was dumb!

Moses grew up as a member of the royal family. One day Moses saw an overseer abusing a slave.

Overseer: Lazy swine. Taste my whip.

Slave: Ow.

Moses: Not cool.

Moses killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.

Moses: Enjoy your sand-wich! Ha-Ha-Ha!

Slave: Ow.

The next day, Moses saw two Hebrews fighting. One of them hit the other.

Moses: Hey, quit it.

Slave: Who are you to judge us? Will you kill me like you did the Egyptian?

Moses: Crap.

With the slaves talking about Moses’ homicidal freak-out, word eventually got back to Pharaoh.

Pharaoh: Die, killer.

Moses: I think a strategic retreat is in order.

Moses ran away to the land of Midian.

Moses: I’m tired and thirsty and hungry and bored. Hey, a well. Hooray! One of my many problems is solved!

While Moses was enjoying the well’s cool water, some girls approached.

Girls: Get away from our well, weirdo.

Moses: Sorry.

Suddenly some shepherds tried to chase them away.

Shepherd: No girls allowed. This water is reserved for important creatures, like goats.

Moses: Back off!

Girls: Our hero!

Moses: You’re well-come.

Girls: Ow.

The girls told their father Jethro all about the mysterious stranger.

Jethro: And he didn’t even ask for anything in return?

Girls: No, he was a perfect gentleman.

Jethro: Sounds suspicious.

Jethro offered Moses his daughter Tzipporah.

Moses (happy): Thanks, Dad!

Tzipporah (less happy): …Thanks… Dad.

While tending his flock, Moses saw a cool pyrotechnic show in the form of a bush.

Moses: Cool, it doesn’t burn up.

Bush: But that’s not all! If you act right now you’ll get the chance to REDEEM YOUR PEOPLE!

Moses: Doesn’t burn up and talks, eh? This is one heck of a bush.

Bush: Actually, I’m God manifested in a bush.

Moses: Whatever you say, O mighty Bush.

Bush: Look, Moe, you really need to help your people.

Moses: But I have things really good here. I have a kid now, and Tzipporah’s got the tent set up just the way I like it.

Bush: I have heard my people’s cries, and have come to deliver them from the Egyptians. And you’re going to help. You need to go talk to the Pharaoh.

Moses: Why me? The Hebrews won’t follow me.

Bush: Tell them the God of their fathers sent you, and that He said He’s going to get them out of this. And if the Pharaoh does not release you, I will deal with him, and then he will let you go.

Moses: Why don’t you just go ahead and do that right now and leave me out of it?

Bush: What’s that in your hand?

Moses: My walking-stick.

Bush: Really? Put it on the ground.

The stick turned into a serpent.

Moses: Holy crap! A talking wizard-demon bush!

Bush: Pick it up, stupid.

Moses picked it up, and the stick changed back.

Bush: Tell them of this sign, and they will believe.

Moses: First, don’t do ever that again. Second, I’m a really bad public speaker. I’m not the one you want to lead a popular liberation movement.

Bush: You’re starting to annoy me. Your brother Aaron was head of the local Hebrew Slave Debating Society. Use him

Moses: Brother? Since when?

Aaron: Since five seconds ago. Hi there.

Bush: Put your words in his mouth and he’ll do the rest.

Moses: That doesn’t seem very honest.

Bush: Welcome to politics.

Moses: What about the people that wanted to kill me?

Bush: Don’t worry, they’re all dead. There’s a new Pharaoh in charge now.

Moses: Right, because we all remember how good things got the last time that happened.

Moses returned to Egypt, where he and Aaron spoke to the elders of the people.

Aaron: Um… Moses says… sorry, God says… that we’re getting out of here. Spread the word, guys.

Moses: And you’re the good speaker?

Aaron: It’s a charisma thing.

The brothers went to the new Pharaoh to explain why he should let the Hebrews go.

Aaron: And if you look at chart F, you can see that if you’d divert your workforce from building huge triangles back to farming, your economy actually wouldn’t suffer that much.

Moses: So what do you think?

Pharaoh: Um… how about… no?

Moses: But, look, we’ve got a creepy staff-snake thing! Show him, Aaron!

Pharaoh: Not impressed. My court magicians can do that.

Aaron: But my staff-snake just ate theirs.

Pharaoh: That just makes your snake a bully.

Moses: You’ll be sorry.

There followed Ten Plagues:

The river turned into blood.

Pharaoh: Red is my favorite color.

The land was overrun by frogs.

Pharaoh: I find the ribbit sound soothing.

Everyone got lice.

Pharaoh: I’m already bald.

A swarm of flies and wild beasts attacked the Egyptians.

Pharaoh: No two ways about it, this one sucks. But still, no.

A disease exterminated the Egyptians’ livestock.

Pharaoh: Yum… grain.

Boils appeared on everyone’s skin.

Pharaoh: Hold my appointments for a while.

Fiery hail flew down from the sky.

Pharaoh: Eep. I hope that’s a comet.

Locusts ate the Egyptians’ crops.

Pharaoh: I sense my options are becoming limited.

Darkness covered the land.

Pharaoh: At least no one can see how miserable we are.

Several times the Pharaoh agreed to let the Hebrews go so Moses would stop the plagues, but then he always broke his word.

Moses: What kind of maniac thinks it’s a good idea to jerk around people that can whip up fiery hail?

The last plague was the death of the firstborn, which would affect both men and beast.

The Hebrews spread lamb’s blood over their homes so the Angel of Death would pass by their homes and leave their kids alone.

Moses: He’s got to give in now.

God: Oh, he’d like to, but I’m hardening his heart.

Moses: What? Why? I thought the point was for us to get out of here.

God: I like to show off. This way everyone will get to see all the cool ideas I planned.

Moses: You’re kind of nuts.

The Pharaoh, yet again, said no.

Pharaoh: Joke’s on you, stupid! All of our livestock are already dead.

Moses: I hope your son thinks it’s funny.

The Pharaoh finally gave in, and let the Hebrews go.

Pharaoh: Your God sucks, and so do you. I never want to see any of you people again. Get out of my sight.

Moses: Consider us gone.

The Hebrews packed in a hurry. They were so worried the Pharaoh would change his mind again that they didn’t leave time for their bread to rise. That is why we eat matzah on Passover.

All future Jews: Thanks a lot.

The Hebrews were not the only ones to leave Egypt. A “mixed multitude” went with them.

Moses: Plenty of room on the freedom train!

Mixed multitude: This cracker is awful. I thought Jews made tasty bread. What gives?

Hebrews: Quiet, goyim.

Even the Pharaoh’s daughter came with them, changing her title (bat-Pharaoh), for the name Batya (daughter of God).

Batya: My little Moses, all grown up!

Yocheved: Hey!

Sure enough, the Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after the Hebrews with his army of six hundred chariots, catching up with them at the Sea of Reeds.

Hebrew #1: Thanks a lot, Moses.

Hebrew #2: Why take us out of Egypt just to get us killed?

Hebrew #3: First Matzah, now this!

Moses: Don’t worry. God will fight for us. This is the last you will see of any of these Egyptians. Hey, God! Little help?

God: No problem, I’ve got this.

Moses: You’ll part the sea?

God: Even better. I’ll part the sea, then harden Pharaoh’s heart again so they chase after you and all die.

Moses: What? No, I mean, we don’t need you to do that. Just help us escape.

God: I told you, I’ll take care of this. The Egyptians will know that I…AM…GOD.

God told Moses to lift his staff. He did, and the sea parted.

Moses: If you turn into a snake right now, I’m quitting.

The Hebrews raced across the sea-bed and made it to the other side. Then the Egyptians came after them.

Pharaoh: Let’s go after them for some reason! Charge!

Then God told Moses to lift his staff again. He did, and the waters returned. The Egyptians were gone.

Moses: …

The Hebrews celebrated their freedom and danced and sang.

Miriam: God is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation…God is a man of war, God is His name. Pharaoh's chariots and his host has He cast into the sea, and his chosen captains are sunk in the Red Sea… You did blow with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Who is like You, O God, among the mighty? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? ...You in Your love have led the people that You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy place… God shall reign for ever and ever! (Exodus 15:11-18)

While the Hebrews danced, the angels in Heaven wished to join them. But God denied their request.

God: These, too, are my creatures drowning in the sea! And you would celebrate this? What’s wrong with you?

* * *
The Rabbis taught that it is wrong to celebrate the death of anyone, even your enemy. “Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” (Proverbs 24:17) That is why we are commanded to remove one drop of wine for each plague. We cannot celebrate “with a full cup” when our freedom came through the suffering of others. There is a fast the day before Passover known as the Fast of the Firstborn. A tradition says the firstborn Hebrews fasted before the Exodus because they were still not convinced they were holy enough to merit saving. Perhaps the fast also serves to remind us of the various things we still, and may always, need to atone for.

3 comments:

yankeleh said...

dig it friar...

whats with all the hating on G-d though? i dont quite "believe" in the whole diety thing myself...but show some respect for thousands of years of culture and tradition...

insightful bits--i didnt know the whole Batya thing...will pull some of this for my seder tomorrow...

good yontif

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

Yo Yankeleh,

Thanks for the comment and I'm glad you liked (?) the post.

Regarding God- Sorry you see it as "hating." But honestly, I was taking my cues from the tradition itself. Right there in Exodus it says, "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and My marvels in the land of Egypt." Rashi interpreted this as saying that God deliberately hardened Pharaoh's heart to justify showing off all ten plagues, thereby demonstrating how powerful he was. Resh Lakish says that God is hardening Pharaoh's heart to punish him for being a jerk. Rambam, as he tends to do, weaves a middle path, arguing that God uses the plagues and hardens the heart to not only show how strong he is, AND bitch-slap Pharaoh, but ALSO to show the Israelites that he is not to be messed with, now that they're in covenant with him. Any way you slice it, you have God letting his power go a little bit to his head, and, if you write him as just another personality in the story (which I did), he does come off as a bit of an egomaniac. Just saying.

I'm not trying to be disrespectful to the thousands and thousands of year of etcetera, I'm trying to honestly engage and struggle with some of the implications of the story (which is why I included both the cheery parts of Mi Chamocha as well as the creepy, "Die, Die Pharaoh, yay God of War!" bits.) Even if it's not everybody's cup of tea, I still feel better actually looking at the tradition critically rather than passively snoozing through it, which has been most of my family's approach for the last few generations. The way I look at it, a little skepticism isn't that bad-- at least if I'm wrestling with the material it shows I'm actually paying enough attention to care about what it's saying.

Yonathan Ben Shimshon said...

Found it quite amusing and a bit irreverent, but it a good way, like for Purim. IMHO, pouring out wrath is a good thing to keep... especially with the new Pharaoh in the White House, our other "friend" in Tehran who clearly do not know G-d's name or His promise to His children. It's clearly not directed to all non-Jews so you shouldn't feel apologetic or the need to skip it.

Passover is not just any liberation, it's about national liberation for the Jewish People and going to their homeland. See the Temple Hagaddah to understand a true Seder with the Passover sacrifice. What we have today is only a shadow of the festival--which is why it's so easy to water it down into a universal story.