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Crusts and Crumbs

Going a way back this was a chase game that we loved playing as children.  Two teams lined up along the centre of a hall.  One called 'crusts' the other call 'crumbs'. An adult who was capable of rolling their Rs would say crrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrusts or crrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrumbs and one team would chase the other.  Anyone 'tagged' had to join the other team.  All good fun, a great way of tiring out children and nothing to do with the thought processes that inspired this post.  Oh dear, I really am morphing into Ronnie Corbett (... but I digress...)

As part of my preparations for the Passover Seder I am planning for Maundy Thursday, I have bought some new resource books, one a Christianised Seder Haggadah, and two Jewish book, one a kind of numpties guide to hosting a Seder (lots of recipes and practical advice) and the other what turns out to be a Jewish Feminist resource book for female-led family or all-female Seders.  The last of these is especially interesting, as it gives a glimpse into how Judaism is facing some of the same challenges that Christianity on questions of inclusion/exclusion, marginalisation, minority groups and so forth.  One chapter was curiously titled 'an orange on the seder plate' and is built around the idea that a new symbol can be added to represent the continued marignalisiation or exclusion of various groups. 

The back story is interesting, and seemingly it began with a rabbi speaking on human sexuality and saying "there's as much room for a lesbian in Judasim as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate."  Irrespective of anyone's views on human sexuality, the power of the comment is incredibly striking.  Seemingly people started sneaking crusts of bread onto seder plates in a form of ritualised defiance.  The use of oranges (I am guessing a literary reference, the book doesn't say) is more subtle, it does not defile the seder plate (the crust of bread introduces leven which is prohibited) and, arguably, can be used to serve as a reminder of any or all marginalised groups - the author notes that she has expicitly used this to symbolise the subtle marginalisation of widows.

I think what looking at these books has done for me, already, is to offer crumbs of understanding of the shocking nature of what Jesus did in the upper room.  If putting a crust of bread or an orange on the seder plate transforms the significance of the whole experience, then how much more so someone having the audacity to lift up the matzot and claim it represented his body and the cup (whichever one it was) and claiming it stood for his blood.  I think it is curious that both Christians and Jews are tinkering with the details of the Haggadah in order to make it meaningful for their own contexts.  I don't think I wil be putting oranges, or indeed any, non-traditional symbols on my seder plate, and I certainly don't plan on using levened bread for the communion bit, but I am challenged to consider the power of the symbols used and not used in expressing profound messages.

More little gems from these books may well appear over coming weeks:

The Women's Seder Sourcebook Ed Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfield, Tara Mohr and Catherine Spector pub. Jewish Lights Publishing, 2003

Passover Seders Made Simple, Zell Schulman, Idg Books, 2001

Celebrating an Authentic Passover Seder, Joseph M Stallings, Resource Publications Inc, 1994

The last of these is the Christian one.

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