The Economic Theory of Passover

Well, the seders have come and gone, and I for one had a wonderful holiday. Passover’s my favorite holiday, I think, but that also raises the stakes a great deal. And now that I lead seders of my own, it jacks the pressure up.

I’m also waiting, fuming, for my check from the government. No, not my tax refund—my stimulus package cash. It’s not just that I kind of feel like
it’s dirty money, money that I’d rather see in Medicare or schools or even in a fund for local affordable housing (this is not a wholly altruistic line of thinking), but that I think it’s pretty poor economic theory, too. Almost everyone I know is going to use their money for rent or credit card debt or college loan payments or the like.

During the seders, as we sang about the ways in which we can continue to struggle for liberation, I thought about how Passover and the High
Holidays really do form counterbalancing parts of the Jewish calendar. (I wrote about this in the introduction to my own patchwork Haggadah, and
it’s an idea I really enjoy.) But if Yom Kippur is when we are most compelled to ask for forgiveness for our wrongdoings, Passover seems like
when we’re most poised to act. The whole story is full of action—we can’t even tell it without singing and eating along—and so aren’t we compelled to act? With all this talk about liberation, aren’t we compelled to use this time to help liberate each other? (And, of course, I can’t think about “liberation” without adding “women’s” beforehand, almost instinctively. That’s some pretty powerful word associating.)

So, there’s plenty that we can work towards getting ourselves free of what ills us, and we’re being handed a hunk of money from the government in
which to get started. Whether you want to donate some of your share (10% is a great amount to start with) or simply use it to buy a recycled
product that might cost a little more, or local or organic produce that might cost more, whether you decide not to use it to buy gas, or whether a
new gadget is available in a more eco-friendly manner, whether you decide to spend your money on sweatshop-free goods or whatever it is you do with that check when it comes, we all have an excellent opportunity to take a moment of stupid governance and use it to forward our own liberation and those of others across the world.

–Mel Weiss

3 comments on “The Economic Theory of Passover

  1. H. Weiss on

    I would like to take this reminder to “pay it forward” to suggest to those of us who are fortunate enough to earn enough money to not be eligible to receive this stimulus check, that we also have this responsibility to spend conscientiously–but recycled goods; support local and organic farmers. But I would like to also ask you to remember that when you go food shopping and your kids want that extra box of cereal or the new juice box selection, or you can’t decide between the filet mignon or braised veal at your next dinner out, you consider the families that need to choose between eating and paying the rent, or going to the doctor; those for whom this stimulus check will not help make enough of a difference. For them I ask that you take the opportunity to do a mitzvah and buy their children the extra box of cereal and juice packs, and think about what you can offer as a choice for their dinner one evening.

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