Drunken Messianic Burlesque (Passover)


The Passover Haggadah and its seder proceeds along a narrative arc from slavery to the liberation of messianic redemption. Up until dinner, the traditional seder is conducted as a memorial to the Temple cult in Jerusalem, the restoration of which is anticipated in the songs that conclude the formal conclusion of the actual rite. After dinner, the mood shifts as the seder resumes. After some four cups or more of wine, what then is the status of the messianic in Passover Judaism? How seriously should one take its expression? There’s a lot of burlesque already in a traditional Haggadah, starting early in the evening with the story of the political ascension of R. Elazar ben Azaryah in the academy and the multiplication of plagues in the rabbinic midrash. Not a matter of sober inquiry and with none of the doctrinal clarity of a philosophical hope or political commitment, “the messianic” should be seen in the same light. It has been reduced to an image, a slurry burlesque subject sung a little too loudly by inebriated people best not to be taken too seriously.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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