For many years — centuries —Passover was the scariest time of the year for Jews because it more or less coincides with Easter. “That’s the time when people would do their Passion plays,” writer and rabbi Abby Sosland said. Those gruesome re-enactments of the Crucifixion did not exactly enhance Christian-Jewish relations, and Sosland said, “There were often pogroms” in their wake.
To make matters worse, the “blood libel” accusation reared its head at Passover, too: the claim that Jews killed Christian babies to use their blood in making matzo.
And yet, what does the Haggadah command us to do at that peak time of terror?
Open the door.
Not once, but twice. First we’re supposed to “Let all who are hungry come and eat” — yup, invite random strangers right into our home. And then, toward the end of the night, we are told to open the door, literally, for Elijah. In fact, the new Bronfman Haggadah puts the Elijah instructions at the beginning, encouraging us to fling that door ASAP.
You’ve got to be pretty brave or pious — or both — to open your home like that. But think of the message it sends everyone at the table: We believe in God, we believe most people are good. And if somehow something bad happens, we even believe we can deal with it. That’s the kind of spirit that keeps a people strong and open.
And it’s just that spirit that I see evaporating today, particularly in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.
It may seem like a leap, but the Passover idea of an open-door policy makes me think of just how shuddering and superstitious we’ve become. Across America (and beyond), parents, principals and politicians are demanding that doors be locked, guards be posted and friendly faces be treated as enemies. It’s an outlook that’s not just paranoid, but also corrosive. How so?
Well, let’s take a look at the post-Sandy Hook security measures some schools have put in place. (I asked readers to send these to my blog, freerangekids.com.)