Passover: the Best Experience I’ve Ever Had

Dear readers,

I’m going to take a break from Brave New World the show and book comparison shenanigans, and I’m going to talk about Passover. This is something I’ve been a big part of for some time. Passover is a holiday commemorating the Jewish freedom from slavery on their own terms, but the story goes back further than just that moment when they fled Egypt crossing a low lying Red Sea.

First, we go back to the time of Exodus, maybe even further back. The Egyptians had a big problem. There were twelve sons of Israel, the Sons of Jacob (not to be confused with those nasty commander types but we’re talking about Jacob of Bethel, or Israel that became known as Bethlehem, the burial place of Rachel and he still had a wife named Leah.) So he had twelve sons, as written in Genesis. Those sons tried to get rid of Joseph, right? But Joseph had God on his side, went to Egypt, and escaped danger because he could interpret the dreams of his fellow inmates in prison where he was sent because some stupid woman lied on him, some wife of an Egyptian lied on that guy. No, Joseph wouldn’t do anything wrong, right? Even when the Egyptian bureaucrat’s wife, I forget her name, asked him to sleep with her, he refused and she lied on him. So he was in prison, and he interpreted the dreams of his fellow inmates. So Egypt exalted Joseph son of Jacob, but when Ramses II ascended to the throne of Pharaoh, became the Egyptians’ living god at that moment, guess what? The Hebrews became the problem, and Ramses’ royal administration decreed they were slaves. Then, the trouble starts.

After the Israelites were enslaved, they multiplied a lot. So there were two midwives who were instructed to kill the baby boys, but God had a way of getting to those women. Shiphrah and Puah did not do as Pharaoh instructed, only what God did. According to the sacred texts, these women were rewarded with families of their own. What they did say to Pharaoh was this, “Oh, those Hebrew women deliver too quick on the stool before we can get to them.” They were clever and they probably saved a lot of baby boys from being killed. Now, the trouble was that pharaoh didn’t want boys and as any taskmaster would do, the overseers would whip slaves, probably rape their women, and do other things that would try to undermine the Hebrews’ ability to stay together as a people. But they wouldn’t have any of it.

The hope came to the Hebrews when Jochebed, the wife of a man in Levi’s tribe, family, whatever, gave birth to a little boy. Jochebed was a Hebrew woman who was enslaved like the others, but she was clever. She decided to hide her baby boy in a basket, and guess who picked up the baby? The Pharaoh’s daughter, in some sacred text she is called Bithia, and she said the Nile god brought her a son. She named the baby Moses, which had something to do with him being drawn out of the water. I won’t go into Moses’ story as a young boy growing up in Egypt and all that stuff, but I will say he had a wife called Ziporrah and two boys, one of whom was called Gershom, but I’m sure I’d like to use that for a boy because it has nothing to do with war or ruling. Gershom is a name that means, “an alien there” or “stranger.” So Moses left his wife and children to go free the Hebrews, and we all know the story of the Burning Bush, right? It’s written in both Biblical and Torah readings.

The trouble for Egypt began when Moses said the famous words, “Let my people go.” Moses said to Pharaoh that enough was enough, let my people go or you’ll suffer the consequences. God had it down, he put down ten plagues, I won’t say in order, but it began when the river Nile turned into blood, and crocodiles were eating bloody food. Then dead fish floated to the surface. Then you had frogs, flies, gnats, boils, the livestock died, locusts, three days of darkness. Then worse, there was a lightning storm among those plagues that lasted days and days, and hail. Oh boy, those Egyptians were mad. But then, God decided to show the ancients what a god he really was. His thought was that “I can kill anyone, just anyone. I’m not kidding. If you don’t let the Hebrews go, I can do something terrible.” And terrible it was.

Here’s how Passover gets started. God said to Moses to bring all the families together. First, they had to fatten and slaughter a lamb. That lamb’s flesh was for eating, if I may say, but the blood was to be sprinkled on the top doorposts of the slaves’ dwellings, and if that was done, all would be fine. But the Egyptians? Well, let’s just say Pharaoh and his people lost their firstborn sons. God killed the firstborn son of Ramses II and went all the way down to the son of a slave girl, as it says in the ancient texts. So what did the Jewish people do? They said, oh okay, we’re done with Pharaoh and his awfulness, so let’s go. Moses had instructions, they couldn’t make dough with flour for bread, so they used unleavened wafers instead. They fled across the Red Sea, and legend has it Moses parted the Red Sea. then, it gets better. Ramses II was all, oh no, my slaves have gone. This after he said, “Go, you stupid people you killed my son and you killed everybody and ruined my country.” Well, what do you do when you enslave an entire monotheistic people and try to force them to be like you, sir? Well, you get punished, sir. Right?

So the Jewish people fled across a parted Red Sea, and they ended up wandering the desert for some time. Probably a hundred years, I forget the whole thing. But the Passover feast was mandated from then on. I could go on for a few lines more and talk about the Ten Commandments, but I can’t do that because it doesn’t have anything to do with Passover as a whole.

So what do the Jewish folks today do to commemorate Passover? Well, symbolic foods are eaten, including bitter herbs and radishes to represent the enslavement of the Jewish people, and the boiled eggs and so on. There are clear instructions on how to celebrate Passover, and I forget what the book is called, but there’s a lot to it.

One tradition I savor in a Passover seder is this: when you have a young child who is able, they have to ask, “How is this night different from all other nights?” I think that’s the tradition, don’t quote me, but I”m sure the youngest is quoted as saying such. What we do as a community in such celebrations is pass on the wisdom of the story of Moses to the youngest children and we want them to know what happens when you mess with people who stand behind a strong faith. People obviously don’t see that sometimes, and like Ramses II, they can get caught up in their selfishness. Ramses said he was God, but that got him in lots and lots of trouble. Passover is just one big huge result from the trouble Ramses caused a whole tribe of people who said, “No more.”

For more on the Jewish traditions, do feel free to read Your Guide to the Jewish Holidays: From Shofar to Seder by Cantor Matt Axelrod, written in plain English. I like how he writes about the Jewish stuff, including how he talks about each holiday and each thing that occurs in Jewish tradition. It’s not boring, I promise.

If you want more interesting fun facts about the Jewish tradition, do read the Newish Jewish Encyclopedia, which to me is pretty like a mini encyclopedia compared to Britanica, but it’ll do. It has all the different stuff in it pertaining to Passover, Hanukkah, and all the holidays between, plus celebrities and famous people’s bios and names and all sorts of fun stuff. Enjoy.

Beth

Was Jesus Really Born in Bethlehem?

Dear readers,

It makes me wonder if our nativity scenes are even accurate, but I knew Jesus could not possibly have been born in Bethlehem, but has anyone asked to question Mary’s or … her peasant name was Marium, but her virginity. She could have, according to some finds, been raped by a Roman soldier because of the law of Rome back in the day. No surprises. But the virginity of Mary was mentioned because of the laws against maidens who were to be married at the time. Read the below story though and prepare to have your brain tangled up with questions.

a.msn.com/r/2/BB1cdOgc

Guidelines for Gifts with Adults in Mind

Dear readers,

Have you been invited to the office Christmas party and not been able to find the perfect gift? Well, with Covid, offices have had to cancel their Christmas parties, but you can still buy gifts for people online, but I’m not here to tell you specifics. I’m only telling you what sort of thing to look for when choosing the perfect gift for your loved one this Christmas. Here’s the skinny.

First, get to know the recipient of a potentially awesome present. Think of this as the beginning of Secret Santa. We did this in chorus a lot, and we also did stuff like this in other settings. Ask the recipient what they like, dislike, and what’s special about them. Examples include that the recipient likes dogs, their favorite color is red, and they are allergic to nuts. I’m not thankfully allergic to nuts, but that is just an example. If a gift recipient is blind, take note of this and find a gift that fits the budget specified in the event you’re attending, but make sure that gift is usable and not something that you wouldn’t see ever again, or something you’d get in a landfill real fast.

Make sure you have a budget. For my chorus gifts, I think the budget was $20. Reasonable, as some of the things people want would be very highly expensive, but even a $20 gift would suffice. Here’s another idea for your budget: make sure you think about gift card values in $25. If your budget allows, ask your recipient where they like to go on a good day, what they want to do with money, etc. Gift cards are always a great idea or perhaps these days, purchase them something they can use. Does your friend or family member like Disney movies? Purchase them a free month of Disney Plus, the Disney streaming service. Does your friend like to read? Audible gift cards are a must. So, if you really want to buy something thoughtful, those are definitely good go to things to try.

When you are opening a gift with family, you want to know what that gift says in the symbolic nature of things. Never ever give out guns and rifles to anyone who is experiencing depression or suicidal ideations, etc. It is imperative that when you give a gift, especially for someone with disability or mental illness, you keep the message in mind. What does a gun say about your relationship with that person? Giving that recipient the family’s old weapons could lead to disaster. Always keep in mind what the person actually wants. If you give me a box of red and gold Christmas lights, I’ll be darned happy about that, but however, I want to make sure that those Christmas lights are used every year. And it has to be done in my own home. I got the most inconsiderate idea for a gift, a white elephant thing of party lights although it was a luck of the draw thing. Wrong colors, I thought. They were orange and blue, not reddish gold. Those are inappropriate to use for holidays, I thought. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for your gift, but you didn’t consider or take notes. White elephants are usually not thoughtful things, so I wouldn’t participate if I had a choice. In any case, please make sure your gift is inclusive, thoughtful, and kind this year. I had to tell my own parents that Denver has no indoor dining, same with Lakewood, etc etc. I told them that Olive Garden likely isn’t my choice of restaurant this year. GrubHub or Door Dash gift cards would be a better option and or a visa or something more flexible. It’s not that I’m telling them that I”m expecting this or that, or entitlement or all that. We are in a pandemic year, and restrictions are everywhere, so my parents should no doubt buy accordingly. If they send me that stupid card again, I’ll have to do curbside pickup for Olive Garden, the only restaurant that card goes to in Colorado. The other restaurants are in Florida, how convenient. But they have no locations near enough for myself and my partner. So we need to change how we do things, especially during Covid.

I hope everybody has a safe shopping experience. For tips on online shopping, you could turn to just about anyone for that. Pay attention to shipping deadlines, buy before deadlines and all that stuff. There’s something called shipageddon going on, which is sort of … well, shipments are overwhelming the system. Please, whatever you do, pay close attention to the deadlines for your kids and the adults in your life as well. Thank you for reading, and have a good Christmas. I hope to write more here soon.

Beth

Children’s Holiday Gift Guide

Dear readers,

While I don’t have any links to specific toys for your child, I do have some guidelines for parents shopping for a blind child today. For one, a lot of toys are interactive, board games seem visual, and there are a multitude of coding kits and so on, but almost none of the robots, board games, and educational games were made with blind children and adults in mind. I have blind parents who are enthusiastically trying to raise girls and boys and … well, nonbinary people too, of all ages and types. The big thing is that if your daughter wants a science toy, more power to her, but when you look at toys for blind kids, you have to look at toys the child can easily play with. Think about, for example, the toys you played with as a child if you’re the parent in this case. Did you like fashion dolls? Did you do beads? Sewing/ I can’t stand doing needlework, but I did do fashion dolls and stuff, but here’s the big thing: if youru son wants a doll, more power to him. Buy him that doll, even though your gendered programming may say otherwise. Here are some toys for all children you could try, and I’m not naming specifics, but here are some to buy and some to avoid.

1. Buy toys that educate, and think simple. Examples include Play Dough and slime. I did a ton of work with play dough when I was a kid, and there are still play dough kits and sets you can purchase online through Amazon. They have a compound kit for kids that’ pretty hot this year, so be on the look out. Play dough is a tactile alternative in my opinion to coloring books and such, where the coloring book has no tactile lines to color within. My mom had to puff paint one such book, and I’m not so sure those will work with totally blind kids with no color or light perception.

2. You can always get Star Wars toys. Those are always fun, but then there’s the risk of losing half the small pieces/parts and your 2-year-old mouthing those small parts and choking to death. Avoid buying small figures and small parts for the obviously very very small child. Just be careful, but if you have an older child who loves these toys, go for it.

3. For children who love being a bit nerdy or perhaps the child who is curious about the world around them, there are augmented reality toys and things that will quiz your kid on things like world geography and such, but I’d avoid those toys since they may require vision to operate and is the app accessible? That’s a question your blind child or you the parent should always always ask before you want to up and buy the latest gadget for your child.

4. For any child who is curious about women’s history, Pleasant Company has the American Girl collection, and I think they’ve come out with inclusive story lines and other things. If anything, books in the dolls’ collections may be in print, but there are Bard equivalents in the American Girl series available through NLS. Your child historian will enjoy these kinds of things, and these are stories as told through the eyes of such characters as a runaway slave, a Mexican immigrant, a Native American girl, a WWII era girl, a WWI era girl, and a girl from the Vietnam War era, and oh did I forget there’s a turn of the twentieth century girl too? And to round off all the girls, you have a colonial girl from Williamsburg, and it’s pretty interesting what the American Girl collection has in store for us these days. You could buy your own subscription to the American Girl magazine, I would hope it’s still there, but then there’s more to it than this. You can create customizable dolls with a variety of skin tones, abilities, and stories of their own. You can also buy lots of accessories for that doll. I want to point out that the Native doll is amazing, and she comes with different clothing and a powwow outfit and stuff like that. Through these dolls, your child will learn more about American women and, as an added bonus, literacy will come right along for the ride. Like I said, there are American girl stories available on NLS Bard, and you will be able to look at the history of each doll online.

5. Avoid toys that promote violence and gender discrimination. This may sound odd, but certain Disney characters may include the princess as a marriage piece. While it is okay as an adult to go through the Disney classics, I don’t want the next generation to get hurt when they realize that singing doesn’t get you anywhere, that marriage is not the end all destiny of every woman, and that dresses are not just women’s clothing today. These days, the princess culture can be seen as gendered and specifically geared toward putting a girl in her place. If your three year old daughter, however, wants a baby doll, fine. Just don’t necessarily emphasize caregiver roles for her. If your 6 year old son requests a paint ball gun, be smart about it. Why buy a paint ball gun for a boy his age? What will that encourage? My brother kept asking for a damn paint ball gun one year for Christmas, to which my mom said, I’m not buying it. Smart move, as this would have promoted violence against people. I don’t think paint balling is any fun when women in their underpants are forced to run around a little arena where men hunt them down and splatter them with paint from a gun. The women get paid, but I would feel sick about giving any male or female child a gun of any kind for Christmas.

6. Avoid toys that don’t include the child should this child be disabled. Also, if you have a black or mixed race child, there are plenty of inclusive options. There’s a Rosa Parks doll out there, but black fashion dolls are now becoming more needed than ever. Kids need to see themselves in the toys they play with, see themselves in stories they read. Refer to option 4 and learn about the American girl dolls I mentioned earlier. they have lots of dolls that are black, white, brown, whatever. Girls can customize the doll if they want to see themselves and write their own story.

7. For very young toddlers, see option 2, but avoid small parts and only buy toys that are easier to manage for this kind of child. Between 2 and 4 years of age, toys become things that a child can or will put in their mouths. You don’t want that to happen, so try buying toys that don’t promote wasteful packaging, contain small parts, or don’t have the bright fun coloring kids like. Toddlers of all types enjoy playing, no kidding, but plush toys and bigger packages and parts will work fine. IF your kid has any kind of diseases that include Pika, be careful when purchasing matchbox cars. Most kids love matchbox cars, even I had a couple of those myself.

8. Encourage your child to dream big. Buy them legos. when in doubt, buy legos, and legos are awesome. Why? Because everybody can play with them. Just remember, you don’t have to buy Lego Friends for your female child but if you wanted to buy that Harry Potter castle Hogwarts set for her, fine by me. You could also encourage your child to build legos into things they dream up, and here’s another reason why we need brainy people in the world. A seventh grader made a very much in need product out of lego blocks, a Braille embosser. Who knew! Legos are one of those fall back things you could try and when you buy them, encourage your kids to build the world they want to see.

9. Avoid the toys that belonged to a dead person. Depending on the psychological ramifications of a person’s death, please, I beg parents everywhere, listen to your child. the toy that belonged to someone in the family that choked to death or killed themselves is a recipe for disaster for the living child. Be extremely careful. Also avoid used and broken toys because what will your child say if your toys are broken before they have a chance to play with them?

10. Set a budget for all toys you buy for your kids. Given the Covid pandemic and so many families struggling financially, you might want to consider toys that are in budgetary consideration. Example, say you want to buy toys for four children, and you have a lot of bills to pay. Try setting a budget, say about $20 per child per toy. Or, you could try $25 per child per toy. Either way, budgetary concerns are real and you and your family may want to consider those a priority. $150 for all the kids’ toys is another idea, but don’t just go up and buy that Arendell play set from frozen because you can, and don’t just up and let your child purchase that thousand buck dollhouse and cookies. Oops, one six-year-old girl actually did that and her mom was like, what???? the mom and daughter eventually gave the stuff away to charity, and the mom? Well, she set up purchase pins and disabled voice purchasing for her daughter. Good on her because she couldn’t necessarily afford the cookies and the dollhouse. Ugh, the only thing a child really needs is validation, but pay attention to what the child says and does not say when you are surfing the web for gifts this year. If you are struggling, and cannot buy toys for your child at all, consider applying to do Toys for Tots. Toys for Tots is a very awesome organizational effort done by the U.S. Marine corps. they’ve been doing this for a long time. If you do have enough money, and you want to donate, consider donating money or a new unwrapped toy to Toys for Tots.

Be on the look out for the guide for adults, but for those families who fear Santa won’t be there, do not be alarmed at all. Santa will be socially distanced, or physically distanced should I say, for photos with the kids. Also, if you want to write a letter to Santa, write to 123 Elf Road, North Pole, 88888 as far as I know, and get your letters in for Operation Santa as soon as possible. The big man isn’t taking the year off.

Beth