Sunday, February 7, 2016

Revenue stream

I was distressed at the ritual committee meeting today to learn that the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards had recently decided that it’s now ok for Conservative Jews to eat kitniyot during Passover. The common five grains like wheat are still prohibited, but corn on the cob can start showing up on the seder table. I don’t mind other people making that choice, but I’m feeling a bit lost in this modern world.

Leaving aside the fact that the ruling managed to work in polygamy, the most entertaining aspect of the ruling was learning that back when pottery dishes were reasonably inexpensive, the common practice was to destroy all of your pottery dishes for the start of Passover and buy a new set to use for Passover and then the coming year. Spring cleaning writ noisy.

When I started buying ritual Judaica, I was excited to find so many choices and to be able to choose pieces that spoke to me. I could have a menorah that I loved, and Shabbat candlesticks, and a treasured tallis from Lisa, and a few other things, and then suddenly I was done. There are only so many ritual items you need. Sure, another menorah occasionally enters our life when we find ourselves in Florida with a newborn at the start of Chanukah, but mostly we’re reduced to choosing pretty candles for Shabbat and Chanukah.

It’s a problem that the Judaica industry must also feel. A Miriam’s Cup for the Passover table is a recent addition, and gives each family a chance to search for a new item as well as being a step towards improving gender equality in the tradition. Still, it’s only one more item to find, and then we’re done again.

So I propose a new tradition: the sacrificial dish for the start of Passover, an item which must be purchased each year. It should have a decoration or design related to chametz, and should ideally be used for at least one family meal before the start of Passover. To celebrate the beginning or ending of cleaning the house for Passover, the entire family can gather around and smash the sacrificial dish. I don’t know if there should be a blessing, a song, or a reading to accompany the ceremony, or simply a moment of calm reflection on all that has happened since the previous Passover before the required ritual destruction. Now we do as our ancestors did in ancient times and destroy this dish to prepare for celebrating the Passover.

And if an annual shopping expedition for a sacrificial dish is not enough, surely every family now needs a ritual hammer with which to smash the sacrificial dish.

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