Years ago when I was still in medical school I was shown a copy of the infamous Feminist Hagadah. Written by women dissatisfied with the traditional Hagaadah's male emphasis, it was created to emphasize the role of our female ancestors in the Exodus from Egypt. Full of politically correct jargon and narratives, it was designed to bring in women who had hitherto felt excluded from the men-only seder.
The only problem is that the Haggadah is not male-centred. It tells the story of how God redeemed us from Egypt, not through an angel, messenger or rocket fire but with His strong arm and keeping of the promise He made to our Fathers. Yes, the authorities quoted in the Hagaddah are men but they're there as authorities on the holiday, not to speak about how the men performed during the Exodus. Even Moshe Rabeinu, a"h, the main messenger of God in the event is only mentioned once and even then, only incidentally.
So I had a good laugh when I read this article on the Men's Haggadah put out by the Reform Movement:
Forget frogs and boils and darkness over the land. The 10 Plagues in this Haggadah include prostate cancer, weight gain, hair loss and impotence.This Haggadah still has the Four Questions, but each has a gender-bender twist. For instance, “Why is it that no matter how old I get, I don’t understand women?”And this Haggadah is shot through with the buzz phrases of the so-called men’s movement: male bonding, searching for our brothers (the biblical Joseph gets a lot of ink), getting in touch with our feminine side.
No, I think they're serious! The article goes on to explain that egalitarianism and the never-ending watering down of the little Judaism they acknowledge has led to an exodus of men from Reform events. It seems that if you emphasize the role of women, push the role of women, push ahead the role of women and make your emphasis all about women, well then men eventually start to lose interest and stop participating.
Yet the usual complete misunderstandings about Judaism abound:
Barden said 25 brotherhoods around the country have bought the Haggadahs and are conducting men’s-only seders this week and next.
I would love to know what seders can be conducted this week considering that Pesach only starts after Shabbos which is already next week. At any rate, the idea goes downhill from there:
“We want to create a feminism for Jewish men,” he said. “We want to take the gift that feminism has given to the Jewish world and help men understand what a Jewish ‘his’ story would be. ... Much of the new spirituality in Judaism feels effeminate to men. They are not touchy-feely. And while we don’t have statistics to prove it, probably a good percentage of them are not into healing either.
So after decades of de-emphasizing the role of men in religion, of villifying them as closet misogynists who don't understand women's needs or true spirituality, the Reformers have suddenly discovered that their men have become the very victimized minority that they had always thought their women to be. This must be an example of the pendulum swinging back.
“So we are now trying to figure out how we can create the appropriate environment for men without in any way being perceived as reversing the gains women have had,” Barden added. “We don’t want to go back to the old Orthodox model with the curtain [separating men and women at services]. We have no desire to set the egalitarian clock back. We are trying to create a new paradigm. We have to find a way for men and women to meet their religious and spiritual and social needs. ... We have to appreciate their differences.”
That's like saying the patient has an infection but you don't want to use antibiotics because they're so harmful to the "good" bacteria in your body. So instead the doctor flails around trying anything else but the actual proven and effective therapy. What's next? Men's only minyans? How absurd!
The seder is about the Jewish family joining together to recall the kindness of God when he rescued us from Egyptian slavery. Despite being a time-bound positive mitzvah women are also obliged to participate, hence emphasizing their equality in the Pesach story. Having disturbed that balance, the Reformers now seek to mess further with a wonderful institution they don't really understand or appreciate.
What's next year? Live frogs cooked in blood as appetizers?