Humanistic Jewish Havurah celebrates Carl Sagan and Passover

On Friday, April 1, the Humanistic Jewish Havurah celebrates Shabbat with a potluck dinner in the Pelican Marsh Community Room (1504 Pelican Marsh Blvd., Naples) starting at 5:30 p.m. After dinner, Carl Sagan’s New York Times bestseller, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, will be discussed.

Because of his adherence to humanist principles, Carl Sagan has been chosen as “Humanist of the Year” by the Society for Humanistic Judaism. Early in this book, Sagan writes, “Scripture is said to be divinely inspired – a phrase with many meanings. But what if it’s simply made up by fallible humans? It is certainly conceivable that doctrines and ethics that may have worked fairly well in patriarchal or patristic or medieval times might be thoroughly invalid in the very different world we inhabit today.”

To attend, contact Dena Sklaroff at 239.591.0101, and find out what to bring to the dinner. A $10 per person charge enables us to cover the costs of this event.

On Saturday, April 23 at the Bonita Bay Club (26660 Club Drive, Bonita Springs), beginning promptly at 5:00 p.m., we invite you, your family and friends to attend our Seder. We celebrate by the reading our Humanist Haggadah followed by a traditional Passover menu.

Completing the reservation form, available on our website, www.hjhswfl.org, and mailing it with proper payment, will secure your seat at the Seder table. The cost is $67 per person. Contact Dena Sklaroff for further information.

Picking up on Sagan’s premise, the Exodus tale everyone believed and celebrated at traditional Seders is now seen differently. Archeological surveys failed to uncover any possibility that there had been Israelite slaves in Egypt who fled in mass and later invaded the land of Canaan (Israel). In fact, evidence strongly suggests that the Israelites were actually natives of that land. Today some believe the Torah’s story was created as an allegory about how Egypt had dominated and exploited the people of Canaan. Ultimately, regional upheavals led to great changes including Egypt’s withdrawal from Canaan and the emergence of the Israelite nation. We have growing confirmation that this occurred beginning in the thirteenth century B.C.E.

These surprising revelations about the entirely fictitious nature of the story are quite new. Previously, even those who rejected the supernatural parts of the story accepted its underlying narrative of Israelite bondage in Egypt. With the knowledge that the Exodus story is a complete invention, how can we possibly go on telling it? We might begin by examining the inner core of the narrative and putting our emphasis there.

The Exodus story reminds us that every human being desires to live freely and with dignity. Modern people understand that release from formal servitude in not the same as true freedom. In the traditional story, the Hebrews pass from one authoritarian situation into another. Moses is no less dictatorial than Pharaoh. Moses issues laws in the name of a divine authority and this neither provides for individual liberty nor allows public challenge. Conformity, humility and obedience are the virtues of the theocratic system.

Passover presents us with an opportunity to explore evolving ideas of freedom. What constitutes true freedom in our day? How can we balance it with responsibility? How might we work to bring liberty to the millions of people who do not enjoy the right to pursue their own paths to meaning and happiness?

These are some of the questions that are raised when the Exodus story is told.