or lean to the side

Okay, so now I switch gears.

As I was listening to the CBS program, I realized there was a whole different kind of leaning going on for us Jews coming up next week, the leaning at the seder table, symbolizing freedom.

And, wouldn’t you know it, there’s a whole lot of discussion about whether women should lean at all. The Talmud states that women were not obligated to lean, since they were not in the same category as men. I’ll leave it there for now. But then, well, I’ll let Erica Brown, from a few years back, describe it:

Fortunately, the famous Ashkenazi codifier of the sixteenth century, the Rama, clarifies this section of the Gemara. He writes, “All women of our time are considered to be important . . . nevertheless, today, reclining is not mandatory for either men or women.” Leaving aside the Rama’s conclusion, he seems to imply that a woman’s role in the community and in her own home expanded and gave her the independence that is a prerequisite for freedom. The Rama was writing more than 400 years ago yet, strangely, we may have regressed to before his day.

Pesach today is rarely a celebration of freedom for women; it marks their annual anticipated enslavement. Rather than marking the creation of an undivided nation, it sadly underlines division into those who uphold the spirit and those who maintain the stomach.

Women have no one to blame in this matter but themselves. When women today use Pesach as an opportunity to clean drapes, they do themselves a spiritual disservice. Unnecessary cleaning takes them away from the original purpose of getting rid of hametz, and leaves no opportunity for Pesach study and enjoying the seder.

Full participation at the seder is only feasible if a husband also removes the hametz, a mitzvah incumbent upon him anyway. When the physical work is divided, the spiritual undertaking is multiplied. So sit back and relax.

See why I think this fits in so well with the previous blentry about lean in/lean out?

What is it that we want for ourselves? Are we bringing ourselves in or putting ourselves down? How we are overwhelmed by choices! How we look to renew our days as of old!… חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם

But that’s not what it means, going backwards. It means being renewed, as we would have the energy and the spirit from as before. Not old-fashioned.

As I write, ISHI is finishing vacuuming the cabinets, since I couldn’t see how I would be able to. I am tired from running around from store to store to store today. (Thank you, Purple!)


I am not Suzy Homemaker. I do not enjoy housework. It’s work. I do enjoy creating food dishes, but the tedium of the prep work and the clean-up, in particular, is work. So the only reason that I will dust and clean is in honor of guests. Really, that’s it. So thank G-d for guests, because the house does need the cleaning up every once in a while. (spring?)

So why am I the one who does it? I think I pay attention to things.

ISHI just said he forgot to ask me to get macaroons for his siyyum on Monday (finishing the section of the Talmud that gives a reason to skip the fast day. That’s a basic responsibility of the rabbi, although others do it on a regular basis.)

Has he ever asked me to get them before? Have I ever forgotten?

Oh synchronicity!

So to end this, because I do have to get back to finishing the turn-over to Pesach kitchen, I will quote from Rabbi Reuven Spolter, who wrote an excellent article about leaning during the seder:

As important as the Ra’avyah’s position is, the bottom line is that
everyone –men and women –must lean during the Seder. Unless
someone suffers from a medical condition that would preclude
them from leaning comfortably, halachah considers leaning an
integral aspect of the Seder experience. Sorry.
There’s still the question of how. What’s the best and most proper
way to lean? Ideally, get yourself a lectus triclinaris – or at least a
chaise lounge. Place it next to the table, spend the night leaning to
the left, eating grapes and living like a king. Barring that, one must
lean to the left on something and not in the air, and lean the
entire body and not just the head. I’d like to also add the
suggestion of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed (the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat
Har Brachah) writes in his book Peninei Halachah on Pesach (page
Instead of sitting straight upright against the back of the
chair, one should pull his rear-end forward to the center
of the chair, such that he is able to lean his back on the
backing of the chair and lean himself towards the left.
In other words, nowadays the best way to lean on Pesach night is
to…slump. What better symbol of freedom could there ever be?
Throughout our childhood, our mothers told us to sit up straight
and not slump in our chairs. On this night we slump!
Finally, on this night, we are free to practice bad posture. Just
make sure that you’ve got the number of a chiropractor handy.
And have a wonderful, happy and Kosher Pesach!



7 responses

  1. I’m Buddhist, raised Christian, so some of this – the tradition of leaning – is unknown territory (not all the rest though – I didn’t live in New York for nothing!). I enjoy the philosophical angle, and really, I love Passover. I went to a wonderful feminist seder many years ago but have lost touch with the people who made it possible. So thanks again for bringing this to the table. And please don’t wear yourself out changing over the kitchen, doing all the prep, and blogging on top of it!

    • Thank you, once again! You must realize how the blogging is the secret sauce that helps make our lives that much more valuable–being in touch with people from all walks of life, all corners of the world, finding our common humanity–it enriches all of us. Plus, I will admit to overstating things, just perhaps for the effect;)!

      • You’re allowed! Someone from Sydney commented on my blog that she enjoyed waking up to it, and I responded that it’s so great that we’re able to share our worlds so widely , like you said, enriching. And – crazy thing – after writing the comment above, I heard from the person who had invited me to the seder in NY 33 years ago, and she now lives in my area.

  2. Whenever I read your posts I feel a pinch in my soul. It’s not only because you write so well but also because you write so familiar. Your writing represents something I miss, home. I’ve nominated you for a Liebster award, it’s a lot of work and I get it if you prefer to hold off, but if you wish to pick up the nomination you can view it at: http://iamthemilk.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/22-things-you-didnt-know-you-wanted-to-know-about-me-and-1-award-nomination/

    • Wowowow. I’m very humbled and I hope to be able to write more about how meaningful this all is, but right now, I’m going to enjoy my family here for the holiday! Thank you so much.

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