This Passover, Eric Silver joins us to tell the story of the Jewish holiday and leads us through the Seder with all its mandatory cups of wine. He explains why Moses was clearly the first telling of the Hero’s Journey, sings “When You Believe” like an angel, and doesn’t forget to serve the ghost.
This week, Amanda recommends Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, as well as Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib.
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Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends, and folklore. Every week, we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is episode 125, Passover with Eric Silver.
Julia: I went to my first Passover last year, I think, or two years ago, and so it was really nice to revisit something that I'm not too familiar with but I have a basic understanding of.
Amanda: Yes, a really generous and kind listener email to us a few months ago said, "Hey, I know you guys bring up a lot of Christian stories, since that's your background, but there are a lot of stories that you're only giving one side of. The version of this story that exists in Judaism is totally different or more interesting, probably."
I thought that that was a really good opportunity for me to expand my perspective and to realize ways that I had been seeing the world in a way that was erasing other people, and I want to rectify that.
So actually, this week, I want to jump ahead a little bit and recommend a book called Jewish Literacy, which has really been helping me to have a 101 on a lot of the stories in the Torah that I just didn't know about, and different Jewish traditions. It was really well written. It's really brief in each of the stories, so it has very much a 101 level, I guess, surface level description, but I'm already having a list of different additional reading that I want to go down. So that is Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.
Julia: If you stumble across one that you'd like us to cover, Amanda, on the podcast, let me know. I will do some research or find a good guest to cover it.
Amanda: And I think moreover, listeners, if you have any suggestions as to Jewish stories and holidays that you would like us to cover, please let us know.
Julia: Yeah, absolutely. We get a couple of emails every once in a while. Things haven't quite aligned, but this is the first one where things have aligned really nicely, and I'm really excited to cover it.
Amanda: There is no better guest in the Multitude family to bring us the story of Passover than Eric, who was, I think, our second ever guest back in the day with an episode on the golem.
Julia: That is true. Amanda, you know who I would like to bring to a guest to any dinner party?
Amanda: Would it be our newest patrons, Ashley, Elise, Ethan, Malim, Lisa, Zoe, and Katherine?
Julia: Yeah, absolutely it is, as well as our supporting producer level patrons Phillip, Julie, Eeyore, Mercedes, Samantha, Christopher, Kathy, Vinnie, Danica, Marissa, Sammy, Josie, Neal, Jessica, Phil Fresh, and Deborah.
Amanda: And do you know who are the most effortless hosts of all time?
Julia: Is it our legend level patrons?
Amanda: They always open the door for us, Julia. Haley, Sarah, James, Jess, Sarah T, Sandra, Audra, Jack Marie, and Leanne.
Julia: All the best, honestly. Just give them all of the wine. It doesn't matter how old they are. Time for them to get drunk for the first time.
Amanda: Speaking of wine, Julia, we passed on the Manischewitz for this recording, but tell us what wine we were drinking.
Julia: I've been really into Shiraz lately, especially French Shiraz. I like something about the brininess of it, which I also thought was very fitting, given the conversation that we had with Eric, and you will see why later on in this episode.
Amanda: It was delish, and I've been learning so much about wine from our friend Emma at Pairing. So I appreciated the opportunity to expand my horizons in a wine way.
Julia: Emma did inspire this choice in an episode that I edited for her, which hasn't been released yet.
Amanda: I also wanted to recommend a second book this week, which was recommended to me by Eric. So I'm passing along ... By the way, I just want to ... just a point of clarification. Different Erics, here. We have editor Eric Schneider of Spirits, who co-hosts the urban legends episodes with us, and we have Eric Silver, the DM of Join the Party and the co-host of Horse. They are different.
Julia: They are. I appreciate that everyone gets really excited and then tags the wrong Eric, though, almost every time.
Amanda: Yeah, and on Instagram this week, we have a Name the Eric Challenge where we posted a photo of both Erics. So please go to @spiritspodcast on Instagram to see photographic proof that though they have similar shirts, they are different men.
Julia: Name that Eric.
Amanda: So speaking of the Multitude fam, we are going to be visiting several places coming up. We're going to Ohio for the spaghettageddon, the warehouse of fettuccine alfredo, the bowtie pasta capital of the nation, Akron, Ohio.
Julia: I like bowtie. That's a new one.
Amanda: Thanks. And we are going to be in Nashville in June for PodX as well as some other spots later in the summer, news of which is coming to you very soon. So for details, go to multitude.productions/live, and there you can sign up for our newsletter, which is going to be, I promise, the very first place that you will hear about upcoming tour dates.
Julia: I say it every time, but Amanda does a great job with our newsletter. It is both beautiful and informative. So sign up when you can.
Amanda: I just put up a page on the website listing some bios about all of our hosts. I have a page with the history of the word multitude and why we chose it. So there's good stuff on the website multitude.productions.
So without further ado, happy Passover, and please enjoy Spirits episode 125, Passover with Eric Silver.
Julia, it's springtime. Do you know what that means?
Julia: Blossoms on the trees. Tree buds.
Amanda: That is also true.
Eric: The return of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Julia: The return of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Amanda: No, I was going to say Passover. That was a really surprising interjection from you, friend of the show Eric Silver.
Amanda: What's up?
Julia: Hello. Welcome.
Eric: It's true. You guys talk about Easter enough. I'm here to tell you about a cool, hip, new holiday that's been around for over thousands of years.
Julia: I like the cool, new, hip holiday actually predates the one that we're talking about, but I love it.
Eric: Exactly, because Christians just took things from other people.
Julia: That's true.
Amanda: That's the show. That's it. Stinger there.
Eric: I need a sting on the end of that.
Amanda: Well, welcome to the show. Please tell us about all of the cool stuff that we don't know about because our religion took the stuff that they could get their hands on and didn't use it as meaningfully.
Eric: If only there was a reason to have a celebration in the season of spring, obviously. Yeah, so Passover. I'm here.
Eric: I feel like a substitute teacher. I feel like I just showed up to this recording and sat backwards on a chair.
Amanda: We can get a chair for you if you require that to podcast.
Eric: Yeah. Hey, kids.
Julia: He's just standing right now, talking into a microphone like a TED Talk.
Eric: It's true. Yeah, I have a Britney Spears microphone on.
Amanda: Yeah, it was in his rider. We thought it was worth the investment.
Well, Eric, you may remember, if you don't listen to his other shows on Multitude, Horse and Join the Party, was a very early guest on Spirits in episode 11 on the golem, which remains one of my personal favorite episodes.
Julia: I think the second or third guest, honestly.
Amanda: Yeah, I think you are a second guest. And back again to talk about sport myths, which went over with mixed reviews from our Spirits listeners. What we should have realized is that people want to hear us talking to guests, not just guests talking, even though they're guests who are so close they're family.
But we're very excited to have you back to teach us more about Passover. Julia, have you ever been to a Passover seder?
Julia: Yes, for the first time last year, right? We did that.
Amanda: Or two years ago, I think.
Julia: Two years ago.
Amanda: We went to a friend's seder with Eric here.
Julia: Yes, we did.
Eric: That's right. Passover is a really great holiday for non-Jews to be a part of because there's an ethos about Passover and the seder, which is going to come up a lot. The seder is the celebration of Passover and literally the order in which you celebrate Passover. Seder is supposed to welcome non-Jews and any visitors that may be in the area to come in, be a part of the celebration, and eat and do all of the fun things.
So this is not an exclusive holiday. There's entirely a chance that one of your Jewish friends would be like, "Hey, Christina, do you want to come over and seder it up?" And then you, Christina, might be like, "Yes, Rachel, I would love to do that."
Amanda: That sounds really fun. Don't turn down seder invites. They are often very fun and have tons of very good food.
Julia: The food is very good.
Eric: Listen, I can tease you three things that would make you want to go to a seder right now. One, there is a mandatory four cups of wine. It is mandatory.
Julia: The wine is so-so, though.
Amanda: It depends. It depends on how much you juj up your seder.
Eric: But no, there is a mandatory four cups of wine. It is written into the seder that you have to drink four. I'm not plying you with it. The Haggadah, it says so. This isn't me. This is what's written.
Julia: I'm pro religion telling me to drink.
Eric: Absolutely. Shoutout Dionysus. Shoutout all the fairies that make you drink things.
The second thing is that there is also a mandatory game of hide and seek where you might win money at the end.
Amanda: The best kind of game.
Eric: And third, you get to open the door for a ghost.
Amanda: Love it. Really, it's not a party without a ghost, am I right?
Julia: I mean, all parties have ghosts. We just don't know they're there.
Eric: It's true. There is an acknowledgement of the ghost. You even leave a cup of wine for that ghost. Mandatory fifth cup of wine. It's haunted.
Amanda: Very good.
Eric: I think I'm just going to go through what the seder is. There are some very defined features of what goes into a seder, and as I said, seder means order in Hebrew. So you have to go from one thing to another, and then surprisingly late in the seder, the story of Passover pops up. So we'll get there as we go through.
Amanda: It's suspense. Invite you with wine, figure out why you're there later. It's not a condo. It's a story of Passover.
Julia: That's a good one.
Eric: Shoutout to all the content on the Internet for helping gentiles figure out what Passover is because right now, I'm reading from marthastewart.com because it was the most accessible I could reach. So I very much appreciate that.
Julia: Thanks, Martha. We like your horses.
Eric: And your pies, which you cannot bring to this Passover seder because the main thing you need to know about Passover is that you don't eat any sort of grains. You don't eat flour, anything that rises. That's embedded in the Passover story.
Everything about Passover is about freedom from bondage. It's about throwing off the yoke of someone taking control of you. In this case, it is the Jews fleeing from Egypt, but really, it's an allegory for any sort of bondage or domination or oppression in the world. So you might hear a lot of themes that absolutely make sense, and there's a reason why we talk about this every single year so that we never forget what it was like to be slaves in Egypt. Hopefully, it informs our lives as Jews as we continue through the year.
The fact is that this is during the spring, so it is one of these spring festivals. The Jewish calendar is on a lunar cycle, so it moves throughout the spring, but it is always in spring because there's nine leap years in the Jewish calendar. Nine out of 26 years, you have an extra month, so it balances everything out.
Julia: I don't understand lunar years, but that sounds fascinating.
Eric: Listen, if you've got 5,700-something years, you've got to have your own wacky calendar.
Julia: Yeah, I get it.
Eric: Okay, so here's how it goes. The first thing you do, I swear to God, is kadesh. The first of four cups of wine is poured, and you bless it. So first things first. We're drinking wine. We're blessing wine. Let's get it going. This is the pre-game.
Amanda: Do you show up early? Do you just show up ready and sit down and start it now?
Eric: Well, I mean, in all Jewish festivals, you have to sit around for a few hours and kibbutz and eat snacks. You need to start ... It's really you're starting the festival off right in this way. For anyone who's ever been to a Shabbat service or maybe a Shabbat dinner on Friday night or Saturday morning, you know that blessing wine is something you do right from the jump, something that Jewish children learn immediately. It's a huge deal.
The next thing you do is called urechatz. You wash your hands because you are about to do karpas, which is eating a vegetable that is dipped in salt water, and you do a blessing over it and everything. So we're talking about ... Remember, it's a spring festival. We are celebrating the fact that we have vegetables. Salt water is going to come up a lot because you can't do anything in Judaism without acknowledging how sad everything is.
Amanda: Everything is about tears.
Julia: So salt water is tears and also salt water.
Eric: It's salt water, yeah, but more so, it's mostly tears. Everything we're going to talk about is symbolism.
Amanda: I have cried over vegetables often. So far, this is just lining up with my experience.
Julia: Also, it's setting us up for a history of brining and pickling.
Eric: Yeah, pickle guys is directly related to karpas.
Julia: Yes. True.
Amanda: When I'm thinking about things I'm thankful for, pickling is among them.
Julia: It always is.
Eric: I celebrate how much I love pickles.
The next thing that we do is called yachatz. So this is the mandatory game of hide and seek. We are preparing the game of afikoman. You have three pieces of matzo that you have on the seder table. Matzo, as you might know, is that crackery, terrible thing, which is the only thing you're allowed to eat that has any sort of grains or leaven in it.
The symbol of this is that when the Jews escaped from Egypt, they say that there was not even enough time to bake loaves of bread in the oven and properly let the yeast rise. So they took the dough on their backs while they were running out and created this cracker, which is matzo. Again, it might be apocryphal. This is just a thing that we do, but it becomes a standing symbol about what we do during passover.
So yachatz, playing the game of afikoman, you take the middle one from the stack of three. You crack in half, and then this is dessert. Afikoman is dessert. I'm like, "Okay, whatever you say." But for a while, it means we are ending the feast, which is going to happen after the story of Passover, and all of the kids get to run around and look for the afikoman. The elder takes the afikoman, hides it somewhere in the house, and the children, also Eric, goes to find it, and there's usually some prize given out. Sometimes there's money, sometimes just the satisfaction that you beat all of your cousins at finding the afikoman, but it's a huge deal.
Julia: So the afikoman is the largest piece of matzo that comes when you break the middle one?
Eric: They're all the same, but you crack the middle one in half, and then you wrap it up in a napkin, and then you hide it.
Julia: Got you, and then you redeem it for a prize.
Eric: Yes, but sometimes, again, the afikoman itself is the prize as it is.
Amanda: I have an important question. Eric, how competitive was this in your childhood?
Eric: Extremely competitive.
Amanda: I'm picturing you throwing elbows into small children to get the prize.
Eric: My brother and I were the youngest, so I was throwing bows at my older cousins.
Julia: Dang, all right.
Eric: It was a huge deal.
Amanda: And you have a twin brother, so you were set up for competition from the jump.
Eric: Oh, absolutely. It was a really big deal. You also need to define boundaries. There's a lot of rule-setting.
Amanda: Let's set up the rules for this before we begin.
Eric: First of all, it's only on Grandma's first level. You can't go upstairs. It's nowhere where I can't reach because I am eight years old and if it's very high, that would not be fair. What is it wrapped in? How many different pieces is it? How many different pieces? Are there any decoys? You need to let me know.
Amanda: Like in Survivor when they make a false idol. In direct opposition to the Commandments, may I add?
Eric: That's true. Yeah, you need to give the afikoman back to your grandma, and your grandma says, "This is in fact the afikoman," and then the competition is finally over.
Amanda: I'm glad that your gamesmanship started off very, very early.
Eric: I mean, what did you expect?
Amanda: I just wanted to clarify.
Eric: So we'll get to the actual finding of the afikoman afterwards, but that's everything you need to know about that.
After that, we are getting into the actual story of Passover, and you pour your second cup of wine.
Eric: Extremely important.
Amanda: Like any good story, it starts with the second glass of wine.
Eric: In the Christian tradition, I know you say grace over a particular meal, but Jews bless specific things. You are blessing the wine itself, but you only do that ... much like grace, you only do it right before you are about to consume it. So you pour the wine and you have it, but you're not supposed to drink it, necessarily. You can drink as much wine as you want. We're throwing down at the seder, and you get to do it twice. So you can do whatever you want, but you need to make sure that you have a cup of wine at this time.
Amanda: Yeah, you can't do the blessing and ... It can't decant for too long. You let the wine decant on its own, and you pour it, and you need a fresh blessing up on this one.
When are you allowed to drink the wine as a kid participating? I remember being super stoked to drink wine at Passover seders in high school, but I feel like everyone else there was like, "Yeah, no," just very used to it.
Eric: Again, it's part of the tradition. I think a lot of kids had grape juice as an exchange. I feel like the bar/bat mitzvah line is very much ... You can just say you're an adult, and they'll give it to you. But again, it's a holiday that involves your parents drinking four cups of wine. So it's pretty lax, and you're at the other side of the table, so you have the chance to sneak it if you really want it.
Amanda: Mom, I'm just observing. What, Mom?
Eric: Mom, I'm an adult in the eyes of the Jewish faith. Please.
Amanda: I'm not going to have less than my prescribed four cups.
Eric: Okay, so we're going to start the story of Passover, and interestingly, the story of Passover starts with questions. There is a tradition called the four questions where the youngest child at the table ... It is this pantomime of everyone coming together and getting the story started.
So the child starts out with the four questions, and it's a huge deal. The youngest always needs to do it. My brother and I did it for 14 years, so from the ages of six to twenty-something, we did the four questions every time.
Julia: Did you and your brother have to fight over who was technically the youngest, so who got to say it?
Eric: My brother was technically the youngest. He would do it. We shared it a lot, but after a while, when I was 19, I'm like, "I'm not doing this one anymore."
So here are the four questions. The first one is, "How is this night different from all other nights?" So you ask the four questions, and the answers come out as you tell the story. So the first one is, "How is this night different from all other nights?" Well, it's Passover. We're doing the celebration.
On all other nights, we eat leavened bread, hametz, and matzo. So you would eat both bread and crackers. But why on this night do we only eat crackers? And that's the story of the bread, as I've told you. That means kosher for Passover. That's what that means. We were the first ones to be gluten free, so we were ahead of the curve.
On all other nights, we eat every vegetable. Why on this night do we eat maror? Maror is horseradish. There's also a seder plate in the middle of the table. There's a lot of different symbolism on it, and I'll get to that as I tell the story. But maror, you think this red or this gray horseradish. And it's like as I said, we're celebrating something that's bitter. We escaped from bondage, but people died. It's sad, and it sucks, and we need to acknowledge that before we go forward.
And finally, on all other nights, we don't dip even once. We never dip foods into other foods.
Amanda: No tears on our vegetables most nights. Why?
Eric: But why on this night do we dip twice? So that's a big deal is we end up dipping different foods into the salt water.
Julia: I know this isn't the context, but I can't help but picture dipping like tobacco chewing.
Amanda: Oh no.
Julia: And it's just gnarly. We don't dip even once.
Eric: We don't use any sort of dip.
Amanda: Not even once, Julia. You dip one time-
Eric: Not even one snuff.
Eric: And on all other nights, we eat either sitting upright or reclining. Why on this night do we all recline? So this is a tradition where you're supposed to take a little pillow, and you put it behind your chair like you're chilling out. And this is again, as Jews, we are happy that we survived, and we're going to chillax for a second.
Julia: For once.
Eric: For once, can I live? Can I live?
Yeah, that first question is more of a set-up question. Then you have the four questions. So here, this is the story of Passover. Is everybody ready? Do you have your glasses of wine?
Amanda: I have a pillow behind my back, in fact.
Julia: Yes, I am reclined.
Eric: The story of Passover is the story of Moses. The Jews left the ancient area of Israel, the long, long ago area of Israel before it was Israel as Canaan. There was a giant famine that happened, and all of the Jews had to peace out and go to Egypt. It was fine for a while. They were refugees within Egypt, but then the new pharaoh came into power. He thought that the Jews were going to rise up and kill him and take all of his stuff, as you do and as people have always thought about the Jews forever, even though that's never been the case. So then there was this decree that was passed down that every Jewish baby needs to be killed and thrown to crocodiles, as you do.
Julia: So the idea there being that he didn't want the people to grow, but just to enslave those who were already present.
Eric: Exactly, though the ones who are there are currently oppressed, and they would never get an heir or a male child to rise up and dethrone him. What would a Jewish man do as a pharaoh? That just doesn't even make any sense to me. There's not this tradition of overthrowing the leader. I guess just this refugee group of people would just rise up and cause problems, I guess.
Eric: So baby Moses was born. He was smuggled out of his family by his mom, and put in a basket, and sent upon the Nile. Through the hand of God, baby Moses in his basket flows to the banks of the pharaoh's palace and is picked up by the pharaoh's daughter.
Amanda: So a male Jewish baby, instead of being killed by decree, ends up living in the home of the pharaoh.
Eric: Exactly, and they don't know that he's Jewish or that he's part of the Hebrew people.
You don't even have to listen to this episode. Just go watch The Prince of Egypt. Very good movie. I cannot confirm the chariot races, but everything else is pretty much the same.
Julia: The music is also very, very good.
Eric: Oh yeah, that banger When You Believe? Love it.
Okay, so Moses grows up. He's of adult age, and he's an advisor to the pharaoh, I don't know, doing whatever. He's overseeing one of the many Egyptian constructions that happens in ancient Egypt, as you do. He sees an Egyptian slave master beating a Jewish worker, and Moses steps in to try to stop it. The slave master says no, and eventually, within the struggle, Moses kills the guy. Then he peaces out. He just runs away. He's like, "I can't deal with this issue. I can't deal with these problems. I'm out."
Julia: Same. I would probably do that if I did an accidental murder.
Amanda: Yeah, I guess he wasn't super confident in his ability to get away with it even though he was so close to the pharaoh.
Eric: Right. I don't want to turn this into a true crime podcast, but what really happened with Moses and the slave driver?
Julia: We're going to drive between the cellphone towers and see which one pings.
Eric: So Moses peaces out. He goes and lives in the farmland of Egypt, and he gets married and becomes a shepherd, as you do in the Torah. So he wanders around. He's tending to his sheep, and he comes upon a burning bush. You might have known this from ... This is where this comes from, a God speaking to a supposed prophet through something that's on fire. It came from this story.
So the bush was not consumed. Huge deal. Always flaming. Always on fire. Moses is like, "The fuck?" Then God was like, "Hey."
Amanda: "It me."
Eric: "Hey, it me. I'm the God."
Julia: And lo, God said, "It me."
Eric: And then Moses was like, "Who this?" So God told Moses who he was. He was in fact a Jewish man, and he was put in charge of taking care of what's going on.
Amanda: So Moses was predestined to do something for the Hebrews.
Eric: Yes, exactly. It's not prophecy, necessarily, because there really is this direct connection between the character Moses and God speaking to him. So it's not prophecy. It's the urge. It's mandatory.
Julia: Yeah, it's God's divine hand.
Eric: Yes, exactly. So after Moses refuses it for a while, he eventually screws up the courage and comes back to Egypt. Egypt prime.
Julia: The capital city.
Eric: The capital city.
Amanda: The titular Egypt from the eponymous EP. Egypt: Egypt.
Julia: I do appreciate that we're going really structured hero's journey because you already have the reluctant hero.
Eric: Oh, 100%.
Julia: We're all set.
Amanda: Moses, the original hero.
Eric: Listen, the sequels, the other books of the Torah, not nearly as good, but you've got to ride that heat.
Julia: I wonder when they sold the movie options.
Eric: After Exodus. Leviticus just bombed at the box office.
Eric: Got 'em.
Amanda: Was the burning bush just the closest miracle you could see with your eyes that was available, or is there a particular significance to this bush that burns but never is consumed?
Eric: I think it is a miracle, and you will see this happening a lot, that God needs to prove to humans that He is the one who creates miracles. There's of course this idea that we know about mythology, and ancient Egypt was no different, practitioners of "magic" because Osiris or Set told them to, and they could turn things into snakes or whatever. But God is the only God and is the only one who can create true miracles. So there's a very strong division between the Jews and what they have on their side and what the Egyptians had on their side.
Amanda: Is there a difference at this point ... I guess the Hebrews are not yet Jews because they haven't been summoned and given the rules?
Eric: Yes, exactly. We haven't even gotten the 10 Commandments yet. That's actually what happens long after the Jews had totally escaped Egypt. Moses goes up on Mount Sinai and he gets the 10 Commandments. That, in fact, to me is when Judaism started.
Amanda: So they were Hebrews, and then they became the first Jews.
Eric: Yeah. I learned this in a world history textbook, that they were called the ancient Hebrews. I don't exactly know what time this happened, but in my head, it's always the ancient Hebrews because they spoke and wrote in Hebrew. The ancient, ancient Aramaic/Hebrew, not the modern. You know Hebrew was one of the only languages that was fully resurrected to be spoken in actual conversation?
Amanda: Like a formerly dead language that is now a living, thriving, spoken language?
Eric: Yeah, like someone in Israel did this once Israel was founded for a few years. They resurrected spoken Hebrew.
Amanda: I didn't know that.
Julia: That is super cool.
Amanda: That's amazing.
Eric: Yeah. Linguistically, it's really cool.
Eric: Also, that's why there are so many funny transliterated modern words in Hebrew.
What happens when Moses comes back to Egypt? Are the Jews gonna get free? When are we going to drink more wine? Next time on the second half of Spirits.
Amanda: Okay. Well, let's go get our refill, and we'll be back in just a minute.
Julia: So Amanda, as we were recording this, I think Wrestlemania was not this weekend but last weekend, and oh boy, it was a great, great time. But the thing is Wrestlemania is seven hours of wrestling.
Amanda: Oh boy.
Julia: I don't want to miss a second of it, so I didn't want to cook at all. Sow hat I did do is I used DoorDash, and DoorDash delivered so much sushi to my house. It was the best.
Julia: The best part about DoorDash is that it connects you with all of your favorite restaurants in your city. So I found my favorite sushi place. Ordering was easy. It was there on time, and it was exactly what I needed after a long day of watching all of my favorite wrestlers win their best matches. I was so proud.
Amanda: And maybe next time, you'll discover a new restaurant near you because DoorDash has over 310,000 other amazing restaurants.
Julia: Yeah, and it can connect you from door to door delivery in over 3,300 cities. That is a lot of cities in all 50 states and Canada. Those are all the places.
Amanda: Canada. Whoa. Julia, tell us what listeners can get if they download the DoorDash app and use the promo code 'spirits' at checkout.
Julia: Well, right now, our listeners can get $5 off their first order of $15 or more when you download the DoorDash app and enter the promo code 'spirits'. The app is really useful. It is really easy to use. I highly recommend it, and that is $5 off your first order when you download the DoorDash app and you enter the promo code 'spirits'.
Amanda: Enter it right at checkout for $5 off.
Amanda: Julia, speaking of spicy things and also stuff that takes a long time, do you want to guess what my segue way here is?
Amanda: Julia, it's taxes, and taxes are very challenging.
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Amanda: Now let's get back to the show.
Eric: So as we last found our hero, he was riding back to titular Egypt. He gets a meeting with Pharaoh, and he's like, "Hey, let my people go." As you might have known, go down Moses, way down in the Egyptland. Tell old pharaoh to let my people go. This isn't a spoiler, but the pharaoh is like, "Nah."
Amanda: And he goes back as Moses, not disguised or anything?
Eric: Right. He comes back, and Moses has wrestled with this command from God but finally accepts it. He goes to the Jewish people and says that he's going to be a leader, and then goes and talks to Pharaoh.
So Pharaoh says no, and Moses is like, "Okay. My God is a very dope God, and he's going to wreck your shit." Pharaoh is like, "Well, no." So this is where the 10 Plagues come in. This is very ceremonial. Again, this is demonstrating the power of the Old Testament God, and I use this only for the distinction for Christians between the Old Testament and the New Testament God. The New Testament God, Jesus, is very soft, and He wants to help you, and He'll do miracles for you as a person, but really, the Jewish God, the one who fights for you and takes care of business, this is the one that brings the 10 Commandments down.
Again, there is going to be a reduction of joy. We are not happy that the Egyptians had to deal with this, but here we are. So the reason why you have the second cup is because you take little drops of wine after every time you say one of the plagues. So you want to-
Julia: You take little sips, or you drop it on a napkin?
Eric: No, no, no, no. You don't drink it. You take it out and you put it on your plate or on your napkin.
Amanda: Oh, gotcha.
Eric: Okay, so you want to hear how fucking metal these plagues are?
Amanda: Please do, and also know every time I hear about the 10 Plagues, I do picture the Rugrats Passover special.
Julia: That's fair.
Eric: I will tell you the Rugrats Passover special and the Rugrats Hanukah Special are extremely good.
Julia: There's a reason they're classics.
Eric: It is the best Jewish representation I can tell you, honestly. 100%. Go watch Prince of Egypt. Go watch the Rugrats special. They're perfect.
Okay, so the plagues. One, blood. All of the water is turned to blood.
Amanda: Oh God.
Eric: Specifically in the Nile.
Julia: I like that we just start off as metal as possible.
Amanda: "Hey, remember how you've been murdering a bunch of babies? Yeah, let's have a visual representation of that."
Eric: Absolutely. [Eric poorly imitates the “ooh wah ah ah ah” from Disturbed’s hit song Down with the Sickness]
Amanda: Jesus. [In response to Eric’s, once again very bad, “ooh wah ah ah ah”]
Eric: Okay, so that's just number one. Two, frogs. Frogs everywhere.
Julia: And not a drop to drink because all the water is blood.
Amanda: But also delicious.
Eric: In the Prince of Egypt, each plague is one after another, but there's no proof that that is. So I like to imagine that all of these are happening at the same time.
Amanda: You wake up one Thursday like, "Sharon, what's happening?"
Eric: It's like, "Frogs and blood? Aw jeez. Mondays."
Amanda: Any one of these would be weird, but many of them is disturbing and makes me confront my morality.
Eric: Yeah, exactly.
The third is lice. The fourth is flies, so big distinction between the two of them. The fifth one is pestilence, so we're talking mad cow disease. All the cows got sick and were gross.
Julia: Wow, talk about famine residence.
Amanda: Oh no.
Julia: It's the death metal band that Amanda and I formed in college.
Eric: The Famine Residence.
Amanda: After a deeply moving class on diaspora narratives.
Eric: Six is boils. Seven is hail. Eight is locusts. So you can see there's a distinction between my stuff, my resources, are getting ruined, and me as a person is getting ruined.
Amanda: I was going to say.
Eric: That's all you can do.
Amanda: A lot of bugs.
Eric: A lot of bugs, yeah. Just a ton of bugs.
Julia: And making the environment very unpleasant.
Eric: Yeah. Nine is darkness. The sun didn't come out for three days. And 10, which is the most important one, is the killing of the firstborn. So you can see that this is a direct response to the killing of the Jewish babies. Every firstborn male child of the Egyptians died.
So this is literally what Passover means, and you can see this is the nuclear option. Many times throughout the plagues, Moses went back to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh was still like, "No, I don't care. I love these frogs." But when his son died and his heir apparent died, he knew that he had to take God seriously. Capital G God.
The way that the angel of death could distinguish between ... and there is a concept of the angel of death, which I always thought was interesting, in Judaism. The way that the angel of death could distinguish between an Egyptian house or a Jewish house was that the Jews would sacrifice a goat, the literal scapegoat, take its leg, smear the blood of the goat over their door so that the angel of death would pass over them. That is also the sacrifice, as we usually talk about in ancient religions, and we still commemorate that by having some sort of sacrifice on the seder.
Julia: So you have cooked goat or something on the plate as well?
Eric: Yeah, you can put a lamb on there. Some people put a yam on there so that it's the pascal yam instead of the pascal lamb.
Julia: Very good.
Eric: It's kind of cute.
Amanda: I like that.
Eric: You can also put a beet on there, which you can ... There's something written about it, but it's red and bloody and all that stuff.
Also, this is exactly how seders go. The stories, the majority part of it ... Okay, so at the end, the pharaoh finally relents, lets the Jews peace out, but of course halfway through, he changes his mind. Like in climax of the Prince of Egypt, he runs after the Jews. The Jews get to the Red Sea. There is a sea in front of them. They have nowhere to go. Moses drives his staff into the ground. God parts the Red Sea. The Jews escape. The Red Sea closes around the following Egyptians, and they all die. Again, sad, but we escaped and it's okay.
That is pretty much the story of Passover. At that point, everyone is pretty hungry, but we still have more things to do in the seder. But we're going to get to the eating portion, which is very important. At some point, you've probably drank the cup of wine, and we're now at rachtzah, where we wash our hands again before the meal; motzi, where we do a prayer over breaking bread; and then matzo, where we do a prayer for matzo. So you can see there's a difference between praying for bread as we usually do, and then you'd have to do a prayer over matzo.
Then you do maror, where you eat the bitter herb. You eat the horseradish, which sucks, but then you do this thing called korech, where you take a sandwich of matzo, maror, and this thing called charoset. It's a symbol for the mortar in which the Jews had to put together blocks that eventually made the pyramids. It's apples and honey and nuts and stuff, and it really makes this paste. So you're supposed to have this sandwich so that you remember what it was like to be a slave and the pain of that and smoosh it together with the thing that you escaped with, which was matzo.
And then finally, we can eat. So we eat. Grandma brings out brisket, candied carrots, turkey. It's fucking tight. Shoutout to Merrick, New York. Just super dope.
Julia: Oh man, I do love brisket.
Eric: It's the best.
Julia: I want more brisket in my life.
Amanda: I've got to figure out where your grandma gets her challah in Merrick and write that down for my future reference.
Eric: It's very important. Very good.
Dinner is over, and we do this thing.
Amanda: Third cup of wine goes with dinner? Where is the third cup of wine?
Eric: No, you just go to town. It's not a third cup of wine.
Amanda: Oh, you bless the second one and then you're like, "Continue until four or more."
Eric: No, no, no, no. So you bless the second one, and then you eat, and you can drink as much wine as you want while you eat, and then the third cup of wine is coming up. But first, you do the afikoman. So the children run around. They find the afikoman. That is technically dessert, and then the meal is over.
Then we can go to the third cup of wine, which we pour. We do a grace after meals because in Judaism, you celebrate the food afterwards. Then this is the part where you open the door for the ghost. So you pour another cup of wine for Elijah, and Elijah is a prophet who ... He has a lot of different symbolism. It's more like you're welcoming in ... Any visitors that may be out there can join and eat leftovers of the meal, can celebrate in the end, where it's mostly like singing songs. You can drink your wine.
You also invite in just the spirits of the holiday. Elijah himself is supposed to check ... I did research on this. He's supposed to check that everyone's circumcised, and he's like, "Good job." Then he goes away.
Amanda: Oh no.
Eric: Because he's also the spirit who's there-
Amanda: He's invoked at a bris, right?
Eric: At every circumcision, yes. So he's like, "Yeah, all the dudes here are definitely circumcised," and then he gets out. But he has his own cup of wine, which I always thought was funny.
Julia: I appreciate that there's a connection and not just him coming in and being like, "Y'all circumcised, though? You all good? You all good?"
Eric: Yeah, listen, what an invasive ghost.
Amanda: Elijah, you can't just walk in and ask if someone's circumcised.
Eric: Elijah, this is inappropriate. My grandma's right there.
Then we're wrapping up. We have a fourth cup of wine for hallel, where we sing songs and we do more prayers, and then nirtzah, where you really get down and you sing traditional Passover songs, which is my favorite part. My family on my mom's side was just extremely musical. So this was always a big deal. There are traditional songs you sing and everyone has their own version, and it's a really fun time. Then everyone's sleepy and they drank four cups of wine, and so everyone goes to bed.
Julia: Heck yeah.
Eric: And that's how Passover is done.
Amanda: Whoa. How rich with meaning and also fun and delicious.
Eric: You might have noticed how I ran through it at the second half, and that's because that's how it do.
Amanda: You're all there to linger over the first cup. Then by the time three comes, you're like, "All right, we've got to get this done."
Julia: "I'm so hungry and also full of wine."
Eric: Yeah, and now you're full after eating when you were hungry for so long. So you went to town on those potatoes.
Julia: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's true. I always go to town on the potatoes, but that's an entirely different story.
Eric: Listen, my grandma makes dope candied carrots. So if your grandma doesn't, get her on that tip. On the candied carrot tip.
Amanda: You can ask Martha Stewart. You've got all your questions answered at marthastewart.com. What is Passover? How do I candy carrots?
Eric: Passover is really an allegory for everything that happens in Judaism. You were persecuted. God comes in, helps us. We get out. We don't love the fact that there needs to be this conflict, but we dealt with this. As you can say concisely, someone tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat.
There is a certain level of sadness, though, as you might get from the maror, the saltwater that you dip the vegetables in and pouring out the wine, but it's important just to have some sort of context or awareness of what were going on. This story, the fact that we tell it every single year, is supposed to be resonant.
You read this thing called a Haggadah, which is the story of Passover and has the rules and maybe some teachings or some texts about what Passover might be and what you might celebrate. And of course different people can publish whatever Haggadah they want. Jonathan Safran Foer published one a few years ago. There's always a new one that comes out every few years.
So if you look at older ones, you can see what Jews cared about in specific timeframes. In the 80s and 90s, there was a lot of talk about Russian Jews who were kept within the USSR and weren't allowed to celebrate. So it was about keeping in mind our Russian Jewish brethren who are oppressed and are not allowed to explore their religion.
I hope now in current ones, we think about the immigrants to the United States. Passover this year is going to pretty buck wild when you think about it. It's weird having a Passover where there are still obvious oppressors roaming around that don't want Jews to live or be around, and it will always be ... Anything like this will always be relevant in the present, I think this year in particular.
There's also something interesting that you're supposed to say every year in Passover at the end. It's, "L'Shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim." Next year in Jerusalem. Of course there's the idea of the Jewish messiah. Jesus was not the messiah. Surprise.
Amanda: Plot twist. What?
Eric: Plot twist. Jesus was not the messiah.
Amanda: No one told me that.
Eric: So we're still waiting for the messiah to come, and the messiah will bring everyone back to ancient Israel. All the Jews will be able to kick it, and it'll be fine. There will be no more war. No one will have conflict. The entire world will be fine. So we have this aspiration that maybe next year, the messiah will come and everything will be fine.
Of course, it's symbolic. We don't want to go, necessarily, to modern day Israel, but everything about Judaism is predicated on this idea of a idyllic Jerusalem or an idyllic place where everything will be fine and no one will be persecuted. Everyone can be who they want to be.
I always thought this was interesting that next year in Jerusalem ties so much with This Year by The Mountain Goats because in the bridge at the end, he says, "There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year," which is literally what we say in Passover. We know that John Darnielle has a lot of knowledge of Christian teachings, and I can only assume Jewish teachings as well.
So these two things really connect in my head. This year, we got through it. We are celebrating the fact that we are not as oppressed as we were, but we are still dealing with problems and conflicts and issues now, and we need to continue to be aware and hope for better things next year.
Amanda: Yeah. Well, it sounds like a commemoration of getting through one time and acknowledging who suffers in similar ways now.
Eric: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I hope so. Like any minority, Jews are not a monolith. There are plenty of unaware and terrible Jews out there, but hopefully, there's enough self-introspection, especially around this time where we can understand what's going on.
It's interesting that I just thought about this, but Passover is on one side of the calendar in the spring, and the beginning of the year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when you repent, is in the fall area. So it's like you have these two times, really, where you can be introspective, and you try to remember the things that you did, and hopefully you are better in the future.
Amanda: It sounds like we should be adding This Year to our friend group Passover seder as one of the songs in the end.
Amanda: I don't know. Just my suggestion.
Julia: I'm into it.
Eric: Yeah, let's all sing The Mountain Goats at the end.
Amanda: That traditional Passover song, This Year by The Mountain Goats. Do people add cool and strange things to their Haggadah?
Eric: Yeah, depending on who you-
Amanda: Or is there more like a canon that you make choices for your family who to include, who to think of, maybe what lines to change or to add? How much of a living and customizable document is it?
Eric: It definitely is a customizable document. A Haggadah is really just the booklet you have on you to tell the story because there's a lot to talk about. I have 10 different tabs open for me to properly explain what's going on.
Amanda: So it's like a genre and not a specific text.
Eric: Yeah. The Torah is the word, but the Haggadah is just a document that you put together that has the story of Passover in it. People make their own Haggadahs all the time. It's kind of like what do you think Passover is for? Is it for education? A lot of the times, it is if you have gentiles or you have children around. How are you going to teach them what's happening? Because the entire telling of the story of Passover is talking to a child and reminding what happened.
Oh, the thing that I missed was at around the time of the four questions, there's this story of a man who tells his four sons about Passover. One is the wise son, and the wise son is like, "Tell me all about the teachings." The father is like, "Here are all the teachings. You're kind of annoying, but here it is." And then you have-
Amanda: "Answer my questions, Papa."
Eric: And it's like, "Ugh, so many questions, but fine, go read this." Then you have the rebellious son, and the rebellious son is like, "Ugh, if I was there, I wouldn't have done." So you're supposed to blunt ... It literally says in the translation blunt his teeth. It's saying, "If you were there, God wouldn't have saved you."
Eric: That's dark. Then you have a simple son.
Amanda: Oh no.
Eric: Sharp decline. You have a simple son who's just like, "What are we doing?" You're supposed to just tell him what you're doing, and then you have a fourth son, usually your youngest son who's still a child, who doesn't really know what's going on, the child who doesn't know how to ask. You need to bring the story to them.
Amanda: Shoutout to the simple son for asking the question that I probably would be too embarrassed to ask.
Eric: Yeah, the simple son is like, "I don't know."
Amanda: "What is this?"
Eric: "What is this? What's going on? What are we doing?"
Amanda: "Why is there a plate?"
Eric: "Why is Grandma here? Why did she bring candied carrots?"
Julia: Don't question it.
Eric: It's such one of those stories that they just use the different ways you're supposed to talk about this. It's like you need to give the son who wants to know all of the documentation so they can read it on their own and study it, but the son who asks you pointed questions, you just need to ... "God wouldn't have saved you." It's dark. There are different translations, but it's the wicked son or the rebellious son, and I always thought that that was interesting depending on your idea of it. Do you have your self-hating son or do you have a rebellious son who pushes back on the thing that you're trying to teach him? Of course, I guess this Jewish father is going to tell him to go fuck off regardless, but whatever.
Amanda: But I appreciate the ... A, we love a framing device here on Spirits, and also, I like this acknowledgement that people learn and take in stories in different ways and that different people at different times in their life or based on their personality might need a different answer or might need a different way in or focus for the night and story that's about to unfold.
Eric: Yeah, for sure.
Amanda: So I feel like we've really equipped listeners who may be going to their first Passover seder this year or those who have always been going to understand and reflect in a new light. Anything else that we need to know? Passover FAQ.
Eric: I think contextually, you need to know how long Passover is. So Passover is eight nights. Remember, this is a lunar calendar, so we're going from night to night. So Passover, you're not supposed to eat bread for eight nights in a row. So your Jewish friends will be crabby. Do not bother them.
Also, if you are invited to a seder and you hear that you are at the second seder, know that you are not part of the-
Amanda: You're not the b-list.
Eric: You're not the junior varsity and the varsity team was the night before. Through a lot of understanding that there are Jews around the world, Jewish holidays are added ... an extra night of celebration is usually added on. So you do it twice so that all Jews around the world are doing it at the same time. You have one night, and then you have a second night. So you have two seders.
Amanda: Oh, so based on timezones.
Amanda: Like people in the evening-
Julia: Oh, that's super interesting.
Amanda: Yeah, the evening falls in Eastern timezone's morning in other places.
Eric: Exactly. So everyone can do it at night, and it is all kind of close to Israel's timezone.
Amanda: Oh, cool.
Eric: No one is doing it before or after each other and it gets confusing. So there will be two times, so your Jewish friends will also be drinking at least eight cups of wine over two nights. So also please be nice to them because they will not be able to eat bread and they are hungover. So give them gluten free egg and cheeses.
Amanda: Ooh, egg and cheese on matzo actually sounds really good.
Eric: Nothing is good on matzo. You know how you know if someone is Jewish or not? Ask them what they think of matzo, and if someone says, "Oh, I kind of like it," oh no, you are not a child of the tribe. But if someone says, "Oh yeah, matzo sucks," it'll be like, "Okay, I got you."
Amanda: You don't need to look for goat's blood above your door. I know.
Eric: I'm pretty sure. No, matzo sucks. Matzo is the absolute worst, but it's supposed to be the worst. It's a symbol, but it falls apart. You try to put cream cheese on it. It crumbles. Everything is just you're trying to find replacements for the bread that you actually have. Matzo sucks. Matzo is bad. If there's one thing that you take away from this episode, it's that matzo is bad.
Amanda: Welcome to my anti-matzo podcast. I'm in a podcast called notzo.
Julia: That works.
Eric: I will pass over the matzo.
Eric: Oh, hello.
Amanda: Some new information has been discovered.
Eric: I just uncovered some new information. Thanks, Vox.
Julia: Breaking news.
Eric: I was kind of wondering if the Passover story was historically accurate. Traditional Judaism says that Exodus happened in 1446 BC, but there is no actual record of a mass exodus happening from Egypt. We're talking about an entire group of people, 12 tribes that went into Egypt and then peaced out through the Red Sea.
Some scholars looked for a historical event that matched up to the 10 Plagues or the Red Sea separating. There was a volcanic eruption sometime in the 16th century BC that might've been one of the plagues. Other stories suggest that 'the Nile turned to blood' came from heavy rainfall that caused red clay to slide into the river, so it was just infected, but no one really knows about the Red Sea. Some oceanographers have suggested that wind gusts or an earthquake might've exposed an area of the sea floor, but no one's really sure.
Whether or not this really happened I think is moot at this point. It really is more of a story to tell and retell and tell to others. It is truly a myth in this way, the way that you pass down values and traditions and ideas through storytelling.
Amanda: I like that how we tell it is as relevant and thoughtful as the stuff that we are telling.
Eric: Yeah, exactly.
Amanda: Well, thank you, Eric, so much for coming onto the show and sharing such good Passover knowledge with us. Do you have any recommendations for people who may want to know more apart from those epic texts, The Prince of Egypt and Rugrats parts one and two, Hanukkah and Passover?
Eric: Honestly, no. I know that there's a lot of literature on this, but if we're talking about getting everyone in your life to understand what Passover is, there really isn't a lot of representation here. So start with things that people already know and our chosen classics, the Rugrats Passover special and The Prince of Egypt, and that fucking bop from Debbie Freedman. Choice.
Julia: That's a good song. Our high school choir covered it. There it goes.
Eric: Who knows what miracles you can achieve-
Julia: I think we're past fair use now at this point.
Eric: ... when you believe?
Eric: I'm singing it so poorly that you wouldn't be able to recognize it.
Julia: That's true.
Amanda: He's singing it just for Schneider. A little gift.
For everybody who has not gotten enough Eric Silver in their life, where can the people find you on the Internet and on podcasts?
Eric: Well, you can find me on other Multitude shows. I am the dungeon master of Join the Party, a fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons podcast where Amanda is on it.
Amanda: Our meta storytelling arc is definitely modeled after the four questions, now that I think about it.
Eric: All right. Whatever you say. Why is this-
Amanda: In the plot recaps. The whole structure is like a grandparent telling a child-
Julia: About the centering.
Amanda: ... the story of the centering.
Eric: Why is this robot different than all other robots?
Amanda: Well, come find out.
Eric: That's true. I am also the cohost of Horse, a basketball podcast that I promise you'll actually enjoy, experienced listener. You can also find me on Twitter @el_silvero, E-L_S-I-L-V-E-R-O. That would be my name if I was a lucha libre wrestler. I tweet all the time. Come follow me.
I just love coming on Spirits and telling you guys stuff.
Julia: Yeah, thanks, bud. It was great having you as always.
Eric: This is the fourth time. I'm going for that number five spot. I'm in the five timers club on Spirits.
Amanda: Ooh, what are the jackets going to look like?
Eric: It's like Starter Z jackets from 90s hiphop.
Amanda: Got it. Got it. That's what I was picturing too.
Eric: It's true.
Julia: Cool. Love it.
Well, have a very happy Passover and until next time, listeners, remember.
Amanda: Stay creepy.
Julia: Stay cool.