Monday, April 9, 2012

Whitman and Miriam's Cup on Passover

At our Passover dinner we read Walt Whitman and portions of a Haggadah that emphasized women and the role of the prophet Miriam who is said to have found water in the desert the Israelites crossed in their escape from Egypt. Each of us sipped water from the cup of Miriam.

Never having been at a Seder while growing up, I wasn't interested in it as an adult, yet this year I wanted to celebrate the Holiday. Some might say that it was sacrilegious to celebrate women and read Walt Whitman, but I believe we had a fresh and moving Seder. Whitman's verse fit the occasion. I read:

And I know that the hand of God is the elderhand of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them . . .

J. read:

This is the meal pleasantly set--this is the meat an drink for natural hunger,
It is for the wicket just the same as the righteous--I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman and sponger and thief are hereby invited, the heavy-lipped slave is invited
--the veneralee is invited,
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

B. asked us to name a woman we admired. I named my mother. "Why?" B. asked. "Her generosity," I said. Playing for laughs, J. said, "Lady Gaga."

It was time to eat. The matzo balls were divine.

Here's to liberation from the slavery of anger and resentment!

(PS: I found the silver cup and tray in a thrift shop.)


  1. Sounds like you created your own Passover on the ancient themes. These traditions are very powerful and can be satisfying even though one does not follow the orthodoxy previously thought to be required. So many non-Jews are drawn to Passover because of its emphasis on liberation and renewal. Who doesn't long for these?

  2. I certainly long for those things, Bluedog.

  3. when i was married to the father of my son, i used to love the annual seders. when i was in my 20s, the seders were boring to me in that wonderful way of ritual boringness, free-floating & daydreamy.

    i wish we had shared passages from Whitman.

  4. Hello, Susan--

    I'm all for freshening up rituals, but doesn't that mean I really don't like rituals?

    Warm regards from South Beach . . .

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