With awareness comes responsibility. Responsibility is hard work that not everyone likes. My family’s Seders this year allowed me to fully understand the meaning of “ignorance is bliss.” It is a whole lot easier to read without knowing what I am reading than to endure the painful understanding that there is a Jewish feminist duel between what is on the Haggadah page and what will come out of my mouth.
My Boca Raton hyper-stereotypical grandparents use the most generic of Haggadot: Maxwell House. They come free with a can of coffee grinds and they’re strictly to-the-point (i.e. they provide a pretty fast route to the food and random political banter). They’re also – shocker! – entirely male-centric and focusing exclusively on the patriarchs, calling God “He,” and the Four Children the “Four Sons.”
Let’s just say that for the past two nights, I got a little creative, much to the eye-rolling dismay of my younger sister who does not understand my personal investment in feminism and to the confusion of distant cousins who didn’t understand why what I said didn’t match up with the words I was supposed to be reading.
Judaism is based in texts that are rooted in a male lexicon. Is it my responsibility to change that? How do I explain to a Seder full of confused faces why it matters so much to me that God is not called “He,” but rather “Hashem” (“The Name” does not have a gender) or why I believe that the Four Sons should actually be the Four Children, seeing as each child is a metaphor for emotions we all – regardless of gender – face daily: confusion, arrogance, intelligence, and shyness?
I do take it on as my responsibility. I have spent quite some time learning about the sexism society has thrust upon my generation to reverse and I need to remind myself that I learn for the sake of action and sometimes that means changing the language of a coffee can Haggadah so I can feel true to my feminism and true to my Judaism when I read it. That is how I internalize these texts my religion is based in; I can only internalize that which speaks to me. As a woman, I have the added responsibility of making texts like these – which linguistically speak solely to the men they address – represent my gender.