PASSOVER 2009- I–goblets of wine, drops of compassion

Another Passover has arrived.  During the Seder the story of slavery, brutality,and redemption is repeated as it has for millenia.

The Passover story is one of struggle and violence followed by escape and redemption.  But brutality and violence is clearly an inherent aspect of the narrative.  The Israelites were made into slaves under Pharaoh who then decreed that the first born Hebrew males were to be cast into the river.

The Passover saga evokes violence: the unequivocal violence of forced servitude, the slaying by Moses of  the Egyptian taskmaster, the horrific ten plagues 'visited' on the Egyptians who only relented when their own first born were destroyed. 

And yet there is one ritual during  the Seder which  I have always found to be profoundly moving.  It involves the drop by drop removal of wine from a full goblet as each of the ten plagues is recited.

The clearly stated reason–that despite the horrors of slavery brutally imposed upon the Hebrews by the Egyptians  "we do not rejoice in their suffering".  A full cup is a sign of complete joy.  Removing a drop of wine for each plague acknowledges the suffering of the Egyptians.

Human beings exel at the ability to demonize, to de-humanize our 'enemies'.  This is the basis for all genocide, torture and killing in war. These drops of compassion should be a reminder that we don't have to view our 'enemies' that way. 

They can serve to remind us that we are all the same, that when any one of us is wousnded we all suffer.

This a Passover message worthy of repetition.

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