Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Passover—a New Interpretation

Originally posted on March 27, 2012

Those interested in spirituality—in any religion—often seek to make that which is traditional more relevant. Some thirty or more years ago I was impressed by a Passover “Seder” or special ritual dinner in which the host re-interpreted the process of remembrance not from the perspective of a more ethnic or national group, but rather as a parable about the shift in human consciousness that is needed so that people don’t lapse back into a he slave mentality. For example, during the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the people—all ex-slaves—complained to Moses about the difficulties trying to survive in a context where the necessities of life are not given: Exodus 16:3,   17:3 . 

They “murmured” — I wonder what the overtones of that translated Hebrew word might be. Interesting  word, murmuring. Anyway, I found this interpretation or spin on the story to be relevant to many ways that humans can easily slip subtly back into a slave mentality. What if this is another way to describe “going soft,” or the status of subtle “entitlement”? So I continue to ponder the possible meanings and relevance of the slave mentality in our world.

One form that I particularly like is the tendency of humans to outsource their own responsibility to be creative. It does take thought and a bit of risk. Why don’t we just assume that our betters, our elders and wisers knew and know what they’re doing. They wouldn’t have high status if they didn’t know something important. This at least partially and frequently very false belief is used to substitute for taking responsibility to re-think which of our culture / social rules, political policies, etc. are truly adaptive, given that circumstances change.

What can we do to promote a spirit of willingness to challenge obsolete beliefs and customs? Can this be done without cynicism or without assuming that lack of ethics or morality is a the only alternative—that there’s a balance? So the question of oppression and its complement—the slave mentality—is brought alive as a social theme at Passover and it applies to all peoples.  How else can we remind ourselves that  in so many ways we are vulnerable to slipping back into a slave mentality?

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