We wish all of our readers a dramatic Passover.
Actually we think it may be appropriate officially to wish you all an anxiety-ridden Passover. And most probably it is not at all proper to wish you a happy Passover.
It's a bit tricky to explain this. We start with the Midrash books called Pesikta Derav Kehana and Yalkut Shimoni. Both point out that regarding the Sukkot holiday the Torah says "happy" three times, for Shavuot, one time. But for Passover you will not find a single mention of "happy" in scripture.
Sure there's a generic holiday commandment that you should "rejoice in your festival" and that applies to Passover too. Note well: To have a happy holiday and to have a holiday that is happy are two different things. Happy as an adjective means to engage in happy celebrations, ritual activities. We wish each other, "Happy Festivals."
But "happiness" as a noun is state of mind or being. There is an emotional entity that we call "happiness" that is the goal or concrete product of some holidays. But the Bible tells us, not of Passover.
Why? Passover is the festival of freedom from slavery. We were slaves. Now we are free persons. The chains are unlocked. The enemies are defeated. Still, that does not create "happiness." The Israelites leave Egypt in "haste" - no time for the bread to leaven, no time to pack. And the GPS takes them to a dead end at the sea.
This then is the festival of anxiety and uncertainty. Where are we going? What now is our destiny?
Sukkot by contrast is a festival of happiness. The harvest is in the storehouse. What could bring more value and contentment? It is a celebration of achievement and material well-being. Hence happiness. Shavuot by contrast is a time of rejoicing. We have the first fruits and we have received the Torah, a concrete embodiment of our religion. Hence happiness.
Passover leads us to the desert where who knows what will happen? Yes there is the relief from bondage. But that is a fleeting sensation. Where now?
"May you have an anxiety-ridden Passover," seems like the greeting that is about right. Indeed why is this night different? We eat the flat bread of affliction, lest we miss the message of anxiety. We eat the bitter herbs, a strange ritual, but clear way to recall uncertainty. We dip twice, we are nervous wrecks. And we sit slumped in our chairs, worn out from our mental anguish.
We joke with some of our more informed friends, "Have a happy and kosher Pesach. And try not to crucify anyone." History tells us that this is a season of notable anxiety and violent conflict.
And we imagine the rabbis sitting to discuss what to do to deal with the anxiety of the festival. One rabbi speculates, We already have one or two cups of wine on the agenda, one for kiddush and one that we can require for the grace after the meal. Have we got the uncertainty covered yet? Two more cups of wine on the menu should do it, another rabbi decides. And so it is, four cups of wine to compensate for the anxiety of this festival.
We hope all of that explains something of our wishes to our readers.
Have a dramatic Passover!