In defense of Pesach

Passover isn’t Chanukah; it’s a major feast.

Mike O’Hare’s riff on “Christmas” exemplifies why I invited him to join this group. I agree with just about every syllable.

One exception: Passover (Pesach) was always one of the major Jewish feasts. The Passover Seder, with its odd but satisfying combination of liturgy, colloquy, family, and gluttony, is one of the most wonderful rituals I have ever encountered, and by far the best way to introduce a non-Jew to what it means to be Jewish. (Shabbat dinner is also terrific, but only in the minority of Jewish families that make a real ritual out of it.)

If enough Christian Americans were sufficiently Christian to make Easter a major American feast*, treating Pesach as a holiday of parallel importance would be entirely appropriate, not a bit of nonsense like pretending Chanukah belongs in the same league with Christmas.

My proposed greeting for this time of year: “Happy Holidays, and to Hell with Bill O’Reilly.”

* A hint of how badly things have degenerated over time in this department: In 1936, the atheist H.L. Mencken called the Abdication crisis “the greatest news story since the Resurrection.” In 1969, the nominally Christian Richard Nixon said that the landing on the moon marked “the greatest week in the history of the world since the Creation.” If Billy Graham minded, he didn’t say so.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: