Passover: not “externalizing” God.

Speaking of the psychological aspects of Passover: Many years ago, not long after my mother (she rest in peace) remarried, it was decided that there would be a family seder for the newly formed, blended family. My stepfather, Herman Boxer (may he rest in peace), grew up in a Yiddish socialist family and attended Bundist camps and Workman’s Circle youth groups when he was young. For him, and for my new Aunt Frances, his sister, religious or spiritual Judaism was unfamiliar, if not alien.

As literally the rabbi of the family, I was designated to lead the Seder. In those days we used the Haggadah published by Maxwell House coffee. The Hebrew text was very traditional, the English translation was stilted and odd. For instance every page, it seemed, included the phrase, repeated again and again, “the Eternal, our God.” Like many families, we went around the table, each of us reading a small section of the text in turn. When we reached Aunt Frances, she would read the phrase “the Eternal, our God” as “The external, our God.” Which was exactly right for her. No one corrected her, especially because she was completely unaware of her slip.

And isn’t that another of the profound themes of Passover: How do people, overwhelmed, alienated, enslaved and empty, connect to the force that lifts them up, fills them with hope and guides them on the path of growth? The God who was external is external no more. —Rabbi Kerry Baker

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