Questioning faith in the parsha
Seder and memory
Paradoxical, the institution of remembrance. Remembering is being reminded of the past in the present, but those who prescribed a ritual of remembrance were seeking to have their descendants remember the present in the future.
The first seder held the promise of all future seders. It sought to give meaning for all time not just to one of the great founding narratives – the flight from Egypt – but to the fact of Jewishness. It celebrated and defined the covenantal community.
Looking at it another way, the redactors seized a moment in the past as a lodestone or compass for the future. And at the time, they were concerned as much with excluding as with including. But this was at the same time a major step forward in the definition of community, which from then on consisted of a group who ate together, who prayed together, where both eating and praying honour God, honour life.
This was also a step forward from the primitivism of the blood bond: the blood smeared on the doorposts recalling the blood of circumcision smeared on the feet of Moses, which protected him and his family from God’s violence…
So perhaps now in 2011 we would want to emphasize who can be included in and not excluded from the seder. Who, after all, would now claim that only the circumcised can partake? No doubt the orthodox, who do not merely remember the past but are trapped in it.
Can we remember and honour our collective past without being trapped by it: return to who we were while becoming who we are to be?