Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Passover: What We Can Learn from the Jewish Celebration of Freedom

For those who are unaware, Passover is a remembrance and celebration of the exodus of Egypt by the Hebrews.  The celebration revolves around a ritual dinner called a Seder (Heb: "Order", ritual dinner) that takes the observer through the retelling of the exodus story through symbolic foods and four glasses of wine.

During the meal, which is eaten in stages, the telling of the story is read out of a Passover Haggadah (Heb: The telling).

The story begins in Ancient Egypt, where the Hebrews were living as slaves under the harsh rule of the Pharaoh.  Saltwater is used as the symbol for the tears that were shed by the slaves to remind the modern people of the sadness of life as a slave.  Bitter herbs (usually strong horseradish) are also eaten in order to remind modern people of the pain and suffering of the slaves.

Throughout the Seder, wine serves as the symbol of royalty - the idea that those partaking in the meal
are no-longer slaves, but are in-fact kings.  The wine is usually drank while reclining on a cushion to symbolize the leisurely life of a sovereign.

The telling of the Passover/Exodus story is the central theme of all of Judaism.  There is a command in the Torah/Bible that instructs parents to speak of the exodus to their children every single day, not just at the Seder.

So, what is so great about the Exodus that it demands so much of a central role in Jewish life?

Quite simply, this story is about your identity and the importance of that moment in history when a group of millions of people gave their Divine God-King the finger, told him to pound sand, and left the country against his orders, and depleting the entire country of all its wealth in the process.

It elevates the rebellion against government into a holy act!

The story then goes on to educate us about the most heinous sin in all of the Bible, aside from the Golden Calf (which was a symbol of their old life of slavery) - the demand for a new king, which began in the book of 1 Samuel.

When the children of Israel (which, by the way means "rules with El"; El meaning "the highest authority"), demanded a King, Samuel who was a judge/arbiter gave a stern warning about the repercussions of this path.  His warnings are written in one of the greatest arguments for anarchy ever written in the opinion of this author.
1 Samuel 8:10 So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king. 11 He said, “This will be the custom of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. 18 Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
19 Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”21 Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the Lord’s hearing. 22 The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.” So Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
While many of us within the liberty movement see religion as another means of keeping people controlled and enslaved, there is actually a very strong argument that can be made to support a Voluntaryist/Anarchist society from within those religions themselves.  It is statistical fact that most Christians have gone their whole lives without really reading much of the Bible, and when they do read it, it's done in a piecemeal fashion, reading a verse here and there, then listening to a 20 minute sermon filled with anecdotes or pop psychiatry once a week.  The full story arch of the Bible is rarely seen.  This is slightly less true among the Jewish people, since reading the entire Torah is a once yearly tradition built into the synagogue services - though it's read in Hebrew, and those attending service who are not fluent in Hebrew will be left only with an impression of how beautiful (or not) the cantillation was, and will have to rely on the words of the sermon given by the rabbi for any wisdom to be gleaned.

These conditions are found in many religious organizations, most of which themselves are beholden to the state through their 501(c)3 tax-exemption, which places limits on what they are allowed to say or teach else they face tax consequences.

This creates some quite fertile ground for the makings of an anarchist revolution within the very religious organizations that many anarchists and libertarians dismiss as being pro-state.  It's much easier to teach a person something about their own religion that they may have been unaware of, rather than convince them to abandon their religion altogether.

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