the fun side of Pesach…

by tobybee

There are so many great things written about, or for, Pesach. It’s really worth spending a bit of time looking around for them. So, here’s three things that have tickled my fancy, in past years and this year.

It’s been around a little while (five years, to be exact), but it’s still a great listen- the hip hop seder by Socalled, a Canadian musician is one of my pesach favourites, and it has songs in both English and Yiddish. You can listen to bits of it here or here. Go! Listen!

And a favourite from a couple of years ago…

But my new discovery this year, thanks to Bund historian extraordinaire, Dave Slucki, is the Haggadah from the United Jewish Labor Bund in Russia and Poland, produced in 1900. So many golden moments, reinventions of the stories and questions which we know so well, including…

Father, I wish to ask you four questions:
Ma nishtana, how are we worse off than Shmuel the manufacturer, from Meir the banker, from Zarah the moneylender, from Reb Turdus the Rabbi? They do nothing and have food and drink, both by day and night a hundred times over, and we toil with all our strength the entire day, and at night we don’t even have a meal, as well?
They have great castles, shown off and drubbed up with all the trappings, beautiful rooms standing unbelievably empty—and we lie stuck together in a hole and they even want to throw us out of there?
They do nothing and wear the most expensive clothes—and we toil like oxen and have not a shirt on our bodies?
They eat a hearty dinner, drink a full-bodied glass of wine and go to sleep in a spacious warm bed and ‘Everything goes well among us’ and we lay ourselves down in a tiny corner on a straw mattress so that we can soon awaken to work?
Father, give me a reason for all four of my questions?

And here’s an offering from the Haggadah made by the Workmen’s Circle, English-Speaking Division, Los Angeles, in 1955, their reinvention of the ten plagues…

The ancient Egyptians were stricken with ten plagues before they saw the folly of the enslavement of the Israelites whom they were oppressing. Today mankind generally is oppressed with modern plagues that threaten to destroy civilization. These plagues are: Aggressive war, communism, fascism, slave labor, genocide, disease, famine, human exploitation, religious bigotry, and racial discrimination. These are some of the evils that afflict modern society. None of these evils is insurmountable. Man, by the right exercise of his intelligence can overcome all obstacles. To this task we rededicate ourselves at this Passover season. We shall now empty our cup of wine of one drop for each of these plagues.

The rhetoric might be a bit heavy-handed, but the sentiment, I think, (sadly) remains important. You can find both the complete haggadot, along with another one, and various other Bund cultural greats, in David P. Shuldiner’s Of Moses and Marx, 1999.