4/05/2012

The Best Passover Reads, 5772

A large part of what I do for JID is sift through hundreds and hundreds of items posted online in an effort to find the good stuff (which is then sifted further to post the best stuff). You would not believe how much Pesach-related material appears every year. Every local newspaper, Jewish and general, has something on it. There's not a lot to get excited about, but there is the occasional piece that makes you sit up and pay attention. Here are this year's Pesach pieces that quickened my pulse a bit:

  1. 1. Leon Wieseltier's review of the New Ameratzishe American Haggadah. Yes, it's a hatchet job and he overstates the case, but the central critique seems to be that re-inventing the wheel (in this case composing a brand new translation of the haggadah) does not necessarily mean doing it better. It's part of a larger debate about innovation and conservatism (see, for example, Zak Braiterman's response to Wieseltier, and the earlier exchange between me and Braiterman).Link
  2. Judith Shulevitz has a Levinasian reading of the Talmud's derivation of the requirement to seek out hametz with a light. The contrived scriptural acrobatics point toward a deeper theological anthropology. Terrific.
  3. Howard Jacobson muses on the poem "Dayenu". Jacobson is the greatest living Jewish writer (in English). Here, he comes up with witty and profound sentences like: "The Dayenu is a series of self-generating conditional clauses, composed, if you like, in that most kop-dreying of all tenses, the Judaeo-hypothetic-preconditional, in which problems are imagined in advance of their occurring, imagined, indeed, in spite of their having been averted, and there is no fathoming the sequence of causation: Do our travails precede our giving thanks, or does our giving thanks occasion our travails?"
  4. Thanks to S. of On the Main Line and Dr. Paul Shaviv of CHAT, we can now listen to Pesach tunes of 370 years ago. Read the whole story here.
  5. This is not limited to one article, but it is certainly a trend: Pesach has long had a culture of chumra, but it seems that things may be starting to change (or maybe it's a function of my shifting vantage point). This year, I've seen popular pieces about a kezayit being the size of an olive, about scaling back what is included in kitniyot, about going easy on the Pesach cleaning, and about not using horseradish for maror (see also this earlier article; this last one is not really a kula, but when I was growing up the general sense was that horseradish was the "real" stuff and that lettuce was some sort of leniency). Trend or no?

That's it (so far) for 5772. Take a look at some posts of Pesach past for more goodies.

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