BY SAM FIELDS
On Tuesday I attended a Passover Seder at my cousin’s home.
It was good food and company. If you have never attended one I encourage you to do so. If you are Christian let me remind you that The Last Supper was a Seder.
The guidebook for conducting a Seder is called the Haggadah and there are dozens of different ones. The one we used is the same one that was used in Obama’s White House Seder. It’s called The Maxwell House Haggadah because it’s produced by the coffee company…“Good to the last prayer.”
Like all of these kinds of events, Seders purport to be a time of introspection, thought, contemplation, etc. In practice the range of questioning is rather narrow.
In the case of the Seder the parameters are typically limited to controversial questions like: “Moses, greatest man of his time or greatest man of all-time?”
That’s not my style.
Yes, I could get into the fact that, notwithstanding the Book of Exodus, there is not a scintilla of archeological evidence to support the claim that large numbers of Jews were ever slaves in Egypt, built the pyramids, or fled to the Sinai for forty years after leaving the Pharaoh’s army to drown in the Red Sea.
Instead, I was pilloried for attempting to talk about something that was a lot more sensitive and relevant to today—Yahweh’s reason for visiting the Ten Plagues on the Egyptians.
Part of the Seder includes dipping your finger into the wine and putting ten drops of Manishewitz on your dinner plate. It commemorates the Ten Plagues that the Hebrew god put upon Egypt to change the Pharaoh’s heart about letting the Jews check out of the Motel Luxor.
I have serious problems with any direct or indirect approval of that notion.
Rather than whack the Pharaoh—which undoubtedly would have sent a message to his successor—the story unquestioningly endorses Jehovah punishing the innocent to get Pharaoh to change his mind.
Forget about the “frogs, “boils,” and “locusts”. Ultimately, trying to make His point, the Hebrew god kills Egypt’s eldest males, notwithstanding they are clearly innocent children.
Collective Punishment Wrong
It’s a technique known as “collective guilt/collective punishment”.
The Bible sees it as perfectly acceptable as long as it is performed by the right folks on the wrong folks. It’s the moral underpinnings for the Bible endorsing the later genocidal-collective punishment of the Hivities, the Jabest-Gilead tribe, the folks in Jericho and a lot more non-Hebraic uncircumcised types.
But that lesson and technique are not just for ancient times. With the Bible as a rational, we continue to practice this technique of “getting your attention.”
In 1892 our government justified giving twenty members of the 7th Cavalry the Medal of Honor because it viewed the events at Wounded Knee, South Dakota as heroic! History now sees it as a “collective punishment” – the massacre of innocent women and children perpetrated by soldiers who were angry at the conduct of a few rebellious Indian braves.
In 1942, when some unknown Czech partisans assassinated Gestapo bigwig Reinhard Heydrich, the German response was to kill thousands of innocents in the towns of Lidice and Lezaky. Many were burned alive in a barn.
Kill’em All And Let God Sort It Out was the who, what, when and why credo of Lt. William Calley’s massacre in the Vietnamese village of Mai Lai.
It’s the rational for the Israeli Army destroying the homes of Palestinian parents when one of their kids has committed an act of violence against the Israeli occupation.
In modern times we are attempting to remedy this evil concept of the ancients. Collective punishment, which can be seen in the Bible as a God’s holy invocation, is today a war crime that gets you life in prison.
Since it is probably impractical for States Attorney Mike Satz to indict Jehovah, maybe it’s time to see those sections of the Bible for the evil ideas they propagate rather than as an unquestionable rationalization for the work of The Almighty.
The Seder might be a good place to start.