Monday, April 13, 2009

Notes on the post about the president's seder and the response it received


1 : characterized by routine or superficiality
2 : lacking in interest or enthusiasm

Thus, when I wrote: "If the maggid was perfunctory (as, let's admit, it probably was) does that make the seder less of a gesture and more of a pander?" I was not passing judgement on those Jews who use abbreviated or alternative haggadot. I was (as only SM seemed to understand) attempting to work out for myself if Obama's seder was a stunt, or something more significant.

I imagine that if some had paused to look up the meaning of the word "perfunctory" before commenting, much conflict could have been avoided.

But if some are still angry, let me clarify: I wasn't pondering the possible "inauthenticity" of a Seder convened by a non-Jew and celebrated, in the main, by non-Jews. Indeed, the question of authenticity never entered my mind, and I question if it can even be applied to a seder hosted by a non-Jew for overt political purposes.

I was merely suggesting that a perfunctory seder (i.e. one that was lacking in enthusiasm or marked by superficiality) was likely a stunt, and not anything like a real try at honoring or attempting to understand our observances. However, as those of you who read the post from beginning to end would know, I did confess to mixed feelings and found myself touched, and deeply appreciative while simultaneously believing the whole thing was just a sop to the Jews.


I can't help laughing out loud when I see the atheist wing of the readership wail that I'm insufficiently reconstructionist in my theology. You guys do know that Bray and the other fundies think I'm much TOO much like you, right?

Can I say this too many times? I am not one the sectarians who claims legitimacy or authenticity for one style of Judaism above all others. In fact, if you've been here more than five minutes, you should know I hold that the very idea of 'authentic Judaism' is a chimera, because Judaism authentically contains many values, values which do not always align and sometimes conflict, values which, nonetheless, are objective, part of the essence of Judaism, even the essence of humanity, and not arbitrary creations of men's subjective fancies.

Also: I hold, there is no "correct" condition for a religion: there is only the condition that happens to obtain at the moment. Every generation touches and alters Judaism in its own way; 21st century Judaism is not a corrupted version of the truth, nor is it a lie or a mistake, nor is something our ancestors would recognize or likely accept. It is simply –contradictory values and all - the latest variation on an endlessly changing religious landscape.

Search for more information about perfunctory posts at


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