Pessah-Easter pains

Should I tell my poor child that he’s descended from slavery on both his mother’s and his father’s side?

Father and son Pessah cartoon 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Father and son Pessah cartoon 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Why do the hagim have to be so complicated? No, I’m not talking about the kitniot and the cleaning; nor about the interminable discussions, arguments and ultimately legally enforceable arbitrations about where and with whom we will observe the Seder.
I’m not even thinking about the unreasonable behavior of my child’s gan in closing for a whole week and leaving us to, you know, actually be responsible for the child.
The boy is marching round the house, singing a little ditty he learned in gan: “So we said to Pharaoh: ‘Let My People Go!’” Sweet. I’d forgotten that Pessah is actually about the enslavement of the Jewish people in those dark days before the creation of The Only Democracy in the Middle East.
I complain about the noise to Mrs. Goy.
“So give him a bit of context from your side to balance things out,” she suggests.
What, that he’s descended from slavery on both his mother’s and his father’s side? We might as well start saving for lifelong therapy for the poor child...
“No, I’m talking about Easter,” she replies. “It’s about the same time as Pessah, isn’t it? Maybe you’ll feel better if he sings about that too.”
He doesn’t sing, he shouts. But that’s not the problem.
Status on my identity card notwithstanding, my knowledge of the finer points of Christian theology is rather sketchy.
But one thing I do know is that Easter is Not Good for the Jews.
There’s the little problem of you guys being seen as responsible for the death of the son of God and all that, for starters. I can’t possibly tell him about the crucifixion, I protest. It’s stuff like that that’ll get me deported.
“You almost sound as if you enjoy living here.
Given how much you whinge and whine and complain...”
So it falls to me to talk to to the child about the happy coincidence of Pessah and Easter, and the conflict inherent in commemorating the death of a chap who managed to rile quite a few Jews in his time. It’s a task far beyond my meager intellectual resources, evidently.
So I get on the phone to seek familial backup.
My younger sister spent K-12 in Catholic religious schools, and consequently has a balanced view on the role of religion in modern life – which is to say, she believes that religion should have no role whatsoever.
I phone her up for advice.
“Give him chocolate,” she replies, “Chocolate solves everything.”
Which is correct; but only in the short term. True, there is the peculiar tradition of giving chocolate eggs to small children at Easter – one that, incidentally, removes the taint of religious observance from the proceedings. But I have it on good authority that this quaint tradition is actually a dastardly plot initiated by dentists and dental associations across the world.
You know, “a moment on the lips, a lifetime having your teeth drilled to bits.”
I’ve had bad experiences with dentists in the past.
Painful, expensive experiences. Whatever I save in therapy bills for my poor conflicted child, I’ll wind up spending on dental reconstruction work.
No, chocolate will not do.
Next, I phone my mother. This I do with some trepidation.
She’s a God botherer on a rather disturbing scale – I mean, she goes to church every Sunday, and everything. For years, we warred over my rather casual attitude to religious observance, but now we live under an uneasy truce – which is to say, she very pointedly asks me where the nearest church is whenever she comes to visit, then drags me along on her annual pilgrimage to the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.
For all this, she’s quite cool about our multi-agnostic- faith marriage; she’s rather old school in her beliefs, and still thinks of the Jews as the chosen people.
Having a (nominally) Jewish grandchild gives her some bragging rights in church, I suspect, along with a daughter-in-law with a doctorate. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that she was a Jewish mother...
But, for once, she keeps her opinions to herself.
“Do what you think is best,” she counsels, unhelpfully.
Then, selfishly ignoring my dilemma, she starts to tell me about all the fun she has found on the Internet, which she discovered in a big way after her retirement. I can’t complain; anything that keeps her out of mischief...
But this isn’t my concern at the moment. She’s babbling away about how wonderful it is to be able to read newspapers from around the world at a click of a button, and I’m trying to figure out the best way of extricating myself from this pointless conversation – when out of the blue she mentions Bibi and the pope in the same sentence.
I ask her to rewind.
“I said that the pope said some very nice things about the Jews not being responsible for the death of Christ, and that Prime Minister Netanyahu responded in kind. I can send you a link to the article if you like.”
Which she does. Apparently, the pope has written a book criticizing the long held “belief” that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’s death. And Bibi responded with a letter, thanking the pope for his “clarity and courage,” blah, blah, blah.
Which means I can actually talk to the child about Easter without fear of reprisal. I mean, if Bibi, the pope and the Internet say it’s OK, then it must be fine, no? So I place the child on my lap.
Remember we talked about Jesus at Christmas, I ask him? “You mean the superhero?” Ah. Yes. I’d forgotten about the last time I fudged my son’s religious education...
Hag sameah!