I don’t know exactly when it happened, but it seems all that is now one word.
At least it appeared that way to anyone watching television last week. Virtually every news show I saw ended with ‘HappyEasterHappyPassover.’
I was amazed.
You know sometimes when something good happens at an unexpected time, people say it feels like ‘Christmas in July.’ To me last week felt like Chanukah in April.
We all know that Chanukah has become as much a part of the winter holiday season in this country as Christmas is. Though the United States is an overwhelming Christian nation, though there about 224 million Christians in a population of 320 million, Chanukah gets pretty much equal billing.
Chanukah is everywhere. There is not a TV show that doesn’t make sure to wish its viewers a Happy Chanukah in the same breath as it wishes them a Merry Christmas. Many major stores make sure to have a Chanukah menorah somewhere. And thanks to the good folks at Chabad, there is not a major city in this country, hell not too many minor cities in this country, that doesn’t have a big menorah somewhere, whose lighting is attended by the governor and the mayor and the senator and all kinds of public officials.
It’s fair to say almost every American is familiar with the Jewish holiday of Chanukah. Even though, as has been pointed out many times by all the crybaby Jews who hate it when it feels like we are accepted by society, our ways are honored by society, and so who point out that Chanukah is but a minor Jewish holiday, one not even mentioned in the Torah.
Okay we’re used to Chanukah being made a big fuss over, getting equal billing with Christmas. But I didn’t expect that Passover has now reached that same status.
I was, as I say, amazed at how much air time Passover got, how every host made sure to wish viewers a Happy Passover in the same breath as they wished them a Happy Easter. What made me especially happy is that many used this phrase, “Happy Easter to our viewers celebrating that holiday and Happy Passover to our viewers celebrating that holiday.”
Talk about separate but equal. Now, yes Passover, unlike Chanukah, is a very major Jewish holiday, is kind of where it all began for us, what with the exodus from Egypt which led to the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, which made us a people, which led to us entering our Promised Land, where we made our home.
So Passover is a big deal. To us. But I really was not aware until this year how big a deal it has become to everyone else.
That frankly thrills me big time, or bigly, as our illiterate president would say. I think it’s absolutely fantastic that Passover which means so much to us, now is such a part of the fabric of American life.
Of course, lots of Jews, as is our wont, are not so happy about that. They object strongly to any link between Easter and Passover, considering what and who Easter celebrates and what and who Passover celebrates. They have nothing in common, they thunder, there is no connection between them, they bellyache, let’s not make Passover into a Jewish Easter as we have made Chanukah into a Jewish Christmas.
To which I say, relax, chill, be cool, enjoy.
No, Passover is not a Jewish Easter and just because they are being mentioned in the same breath doesn’t make it so. There’s no danger here, stop being so scared it will confuse the women and frighten the children. The vast majority of Jews know what Passover is basically all about, the vast majority of Jews attend a Seder, the vast majority of Jews are not going to think Passover is our version of Easter.
What is amazing for Jews about America is that we are fully able to be ourselves, to cling to our traditions and to celebrate our ways, while not only being fully accepted by the larger society, but having our ways be noted by, celebrated by the larger society.
How many major Muslim holidays are you aware of? How often do you hear TV hosts wish their Muslim viewers a Happy Ramadan, or whatever you’re supposed to say to those marking Ramadan, which I don’t even know, which kind of proves my point. There are many many more Muslims in this world than Jews, yet their holidays, like Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, rate nary a mention in the media, while our holidays are in the spotlight.
How many supermarkets do you know that clear out a big chunk of the store for foods traditionally eaten during the nightly feast that follows the daily fast of Ramadan. Compare that with the Passover sections brimming with matzahs and gefilte fish and kosher wines and kosher for Pesach cakes and cookies.
How much our holiday is made note of was made vividly clear on ‘Saturday Night Live’ when the brilliant comedian Melissa McCarthy once again played Sean Spicer. In a skit poking gentle fun at the White House press secretary’s insane comments about Hitler not being such a bad guy, I mean after all he didn’t use gas on his own citizens, McCarthySpicer then veered off into an explanation, you got it, of Passover. When something gets satirized on ‘Saturday Night Live’ you know it’s part of the nation’s consciousness.
Indeed, when the real Spicer went on his fake apology tour after he said what he said, he noted that not only was what he said horrible, but it was all the more horrible because it took place during the holy week of Passover, which, he said, is as holy for the Jewish people, as Easter is for the Christian people.
Now, again we can be like those small Jews who immediately pick a theological bone with that notion, or we can kvell at seeing the press secretary of the United States make a point of noting the holiness of Passover and equating it with the holiness of Easter, which, for Christians is a very holy day indeed.
Please remember the numbers. 320 million Americans, of which 70.6 percent are Christian and 1.9 percent are Jews.
And yet for all eight years of the Obama administration, the president of the United States himself attended and presided over a Passover Seder held inside the White House. For all you Jewish Obama haters out there, I hope you stop for a minute and take note at how extraordinary that was. The president eating matzah, drinking four cups of wine, listening as the Four Questions were asked, helping to tell our story of slavery in Egypt and G-d taking us out and leading us to Israel.
How extraordinary we had it for eight years was seen by the fact that President Obama was the first chief executive to attend a seder every Passover of his time in office. How extraordinary we had it was seen by the fact that this year, The Donald’s first in the White House, he did not attend the Seder. Nor did his Jewish daughter or his Jewish son-in-law, the Secretary of Everything.
Nope, the highest ranking official at the Seder was the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin. Good to have a Jew in the Cabinet for times like this.
So you can add the president not attending the Seder to the list of him not moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, like he promised he would, not mentioning Jews in his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, not condemning anti-Semitism when pressed to do so at two press conferences.
One can only wonder what the King of the Jews Sheldon Adelson thinks of it all. My guess is he’s fine with it just as he told us he would be fine if Israel stopped being a democracy if that was the small price to pay for avoiding a two state solution. I must admit I found it absolutely amazing, and horrifying, that the one Jewish leader that Sean Spicer called after he made his Hitler could have been worse statement, was, yes, Sheldon Adelson. Of all the Jewish leaders there are out there, and G-d knows there are many who hold that title, the only one Spicey felt he had to call was Sheldon.
Just as I don’t know when Passover became Easter’s equal in our country, which tickles me, so I don’t know when Sheldon Adelson, casino billionaire, became the indispensable Jew, the leader of the Jewish people, today’s Moses, which nauseates me.
But so it is. And so is the fact that yes, society knows about and makes a big tsimmes about Chanukah because it comes out so close to Christmas and does the same about Passover because it comes out so close to Easter.
While some Jews, mostly right-wing and super-Orthodox, insist timing should have nothing to do with trying to connect the holidays, the fact is that timing has everything to do with it. And that’s good.
I frankly don’t know how you can believe that everything that happens in this world is the result of G-d’s will, which I firmly believe and super-Orthodox Jews say they believe, and yet somehow figure that it’s just a coincidence that Chanukah and Christmas, Passover and Easter happen at the same time.
To me, it’s very clearly G-d’s will that it be so. Society knows about, is aware of, understands the story of Chanukah precisely because it takes place so close to Christmas. So with Passover and Easter. It is G-d’s will, and G-d’s wisdom, to have them happen when they do so that non- Jews are as familiar with them as they are.
Chanukah is the story of how Jews refused to give up their faith, showed the courage to oppose the greatest power on earth, in the service of clinging to who they are and what they believe. Passover is the story of G-d rescuing us from bondage, giving us freedom, making us his own, bringing us home.
That the world knows those stories, wishes us well as we celebrate those holidays, is something for us to embrace, something for us to be very, very grateful for.