Being a fairly secular Jew, on the few occasions when I do say a prayer on an occasional chag or shabbat, I rarely listen to, or think about what I am saying. But a Jewish Australian academic, Lawrie Zion, recently wrote a piece for ABC’s unleashed in which he says he will not celebrate Pesach this year because:
More than anything else, I cannot bring myself to be part of an even symbolic rendition of the line that punctuates every Seder – “Next Year in Jerusalem”.
I cannot utter these words while long-term Arab residents such as Nasser Jaber are thrown out of their homes in East Jerusalem. The house was invaded by settlers last year while Jaber spent four nights away while his house was being renovated.
I cannot utter these words when the Israeli government signals further turmoil to Arab residents by announcing plans to build another 1600 new homes in East Jerusalem – a provocation that just happened to coincide with the visit of the US Vice-President, who was attempting to reinvigorate the peace process.
While personally, I’m not going to boycott Pesach this year, I do think it’s really important to draw attention to the prayers and rituals we often unthinkingly repeat. Maybe political debates around the Seder table with your conservative family aren’t that constructive a use of time and energy (as I, and I’m sure you, know from experience). But constantly listening to, understanding, challenging, and making relevant the prayers, ideas, words and rituals we have repeated for generations is, I think, an central part of what it means to be Jewish.