Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sexy Seder

Parting of the Red Sea. Lego Bible.
Correction: April 3, 2015 
An earlier version of this column misidentified the sea that God parted in the Book of Exodus. It is the Red Sea, not the Dead Sea.
Hahaha. Actually I'm pissed off because I didn't notice the error this morning before it was corrected, as I certainly should have done, and it makes me feel somewhat less entitled to mock him than usual.

Today is a Passover column in which world-famous postmodern Rabbi David Brooks takes on the meaning or perhaps deconsruction of the holy day, which he seems to think is mainly about singing, storytelling, and sex. I'm with him on the storytelling part. To me the Seder is all about the unspoken answer to the First Question:

Why is this night different from all oher nights?
Other nights your parents get annoyed if you read at the dinner table, tonight you're required to do it.

Anyway his sole source is a book by the literary scholar Avivah Zornberg, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodos, which he has unfortunately taken to be a self-help manual for overcoming your fears:
So it would be nice if there were subtler strategies and techniques to conquer fear.

Fortunately, one such method is embedded in the story that Jews read tonight as part of the Passover Seder. It’s an attractive technique because it involves kissing, talking and singing your way through fear.
Actually, no, it doesn't, or isn't. The book in question is a large and dense work with many quotations running the gamut from Kierkegaard and Kafka to Wittgenstein and Lacan, a study of the midrashic response to the Book of Exodus, in which singing and sex have important parts along with the question of whether Hebrew women in Egypt tended to give birth to sextuplets or even to 600,000-tuplets in a "reptilian" fertility, the question of what women did at all during the 40 years of wandering in the desert when the Bible leaves them virtually unmentioned, or the question of why God "hardened" Pharoah's heart for three more plagues after Pharoah had essentially given up the fight.

So the book found its way into the Yastreblyanskyan Kindle device and I've been reading it much of the day, and it's really thrilling in spots, I realize that may sound weird. What it is absolutely not is something I want to read in order to point out how stupid Brooks is. We already know about that and the book is just too interesting and difficult to be wasted on demonstrating the point once again. So I won't.

If Brooks has a program here, it is to deny the essential fact that Exodus is a story of liberation from slavery, for reasons best known to his Republican self. He did that last year too (Zornberg, of course, does not).

So next year in Jerusalem to you all, but only if it's open and free to persons of all faiths (including none) and ethnicities. See you tomorrow.

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