I’m not a religious person, but I am a big fan of Judaism. I’ve probably been to more bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, brises, seders, and held more chuppahs than any other gentile you know.
I admire Judaism’s intense respect for knowledge, law, and values. I also admire the Jewish people as a whole given the fact that for 3,000 years, even though they have been one of the most persecuted groups in history, they have not only survived but prospered as well
One of the key components that has kept Judaism strong is an emphasis on the rituals that reinforce its history and traditions, and this is never more evident than in the Passover seder ceremony;
The Seder is a ritual performed by a community or by multiple generations of a family, involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. This story is in the Book of Exodus (Shemot) in the Hebrew Bible.
Traditionally, families and friends gather in the evening to read the text of the Haggadah, an ancient work derived from the Mishnah (Pesahim 10). The Haggadah contains the narrative of the Israelite exodus from Egypt, special blessings and rituals, commentaries from the Talmud, and special Passover songs.
Seder customs include drinking four cups of wine, eating matza, partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate, and reclining in celebration of freedom. The Seder is performed in much the same way by Jews all over the world.
A few years back, noted author and radio talk show host Dennis Prager wrote a column entitled “America Needs a July Fourth Seder.” At first the idea struck me as a bit odd, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
The American story and the Jewish story have a number of parallels. Both groups are made up of people who have historically left or been forced from their native countries. Both groups have survived with little to start with and against great odds. Both have achieved exceptionalism and both are constantly being asked to apologize for it from their enemies.
Last year Prager actually created a simple ten-minute seder ceremony that follows the Judaic template, and which I believe should be a part of every American’s July Fourth celebration. You can download the printable version here.
Look, I am not some neo-jinoistic guy who goes in for corny or contrived patriotism. But I am also a guy who is proud to be American, despite it’s faults.
Although it may seem silly at first glance, I am sure that is how the first Passover Seder looked as well. However not many things have stood the test of time as well as this ritual has, and I think a Fourth of July seder would go a long way towards passing on to each successive generation what it means to be an American.
Dennis Prager conducting a Fourth of July seder
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