imaginary family values presents

yesh omrim

a blog that reclines to the left


Thank God we are free, unlike this poor sod

13 December 2009

Twice in my life, I have attended Passover Seders1 in people’s homes in which we, as we celebrated our freedom, were attended by Black servants. Perhaps if I had been raised in a social class where “the help” was a constant presence in my life, I would not have considered this unusual, but I felt like the hosts must have been deaf to irony. What did those women say to their families when they got home from their jobs? I hope that at least they were well paid.

It turns out that Maimonides, who was not raised with even the illusion of living in a classless society, had a different approach to this kind of situation. He wrote, in Hilchot Chametz u-Matzah 8:2:

If [the son at the Seder] is young or of low intelligence, [the father] says to him, “My son, we all used to be slaves—like this maid, or like this slave—in Egypt, and on this night the Blessed Holy One brought us out to freedom.”

Fortunately, in this millenium, other people have come up with better ways to explain slavery to the very young.

1 One of them was not, technically, a Passover Seder, but rather a birthday bash held on the first night of chol ha-mo’ed in which the hosts decided to break out the haggadot. Don’t ask.