by Maggie Anton, author of Rashi’s Daughters
Maggie Anton is the award-winning author of “Rashi’s Daughters,” historical novels set in the household of the great medieval Jewish scholar, whose daughters studied Talmud in a time when these sacred texts were forbidden to women. Raised in a secular, socialist household, Anton reached adulthood with little knowledge of her Jewish religion. In 1992, she began studying Talmud in a class for women taught by feminist theologian Rachel Adler, and became intrigued that the great medieval scholar Rashi had no sons, only three daughters. These forgotten women seemed ripe for rediscovery, and the idea of a book about them was born.
They first appear just after Hanukkah in my Jewish magazines and newspaper, and seem to peak at Purim - ads for all-inclusive Passover vacations at fancy kosher resorts. Even the seders are provided, either private for your family or with the other guests.
Unlike other travel ads, which provide a pleasant diversion, these Passover escapes fill me with a profound sadness. Why? Because their very existence shows that the preparation for Passover at home has become so onerous that Jewish women are jumping at the chance to avoid it entirely. It is a sorry commentary on Jews’ competition to be ever more zealous/obsessive that the work involved in koshering one’s home has become so oppressive that some women will give up and leave the burden to resort proprietors.
But what’s wrong with letting someone else do the work? Why should Jewish women be slaves to this increasingly heavy burden, especially for the Festival of Freedom? On the other hand, is it good that the customers of these resorts won’t be sharing their seder with friends and elderly relatives; instead abdicating the quintessential Jewish home holiday into the hands of hoteliers?
“I grew up in a secular home, and we attended the seder of some religious friends of my parents. If they had gone on a Passover vacation, what would my family have done? Multiply this by all the folks who go away and what would be the consequences? If prosperous Jews go away for Passover, who will invite the poor, the single, the lonely, to their homes for seder? Who will say, “This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in Egypt. All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are in need, come and join in celebrating Passover?”
I don’t have any answers to these Passover questions. And that’s what really makes me sad.
Posted on March 30th, 2009 Filed under: Guest Posts |