We’re Still Here, Surviving and Eating
Would Jews stop explaining holidays in this cringe-worthy way?
I cringe every time I hear someone say that every Jewish holiday is based on the theme that “They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat” (or a similar variation).
“They tried to kill us. They failed [alt: “We survived”]. Let’s eat.”
It’s how Jews explain most of the Jewish holidays to non-Jewish friends.
Many Jews will say that all Jewish holidays are about this.
It’s succinct, and it’s a fun summary.
It’s a proclamation.
It’s a statement of celebration.
And yet, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, like whitefish that’s sat out too long.
Maybe I’m taking it too seriously. I’m aware that sometimes I take life too seriously, and I often don’t understand humour but stay with me.
The statement is vague and inaccurate. A non-Jew might look at you in confusion and think you’re serious when you say that that theme is the basis of every Jewish holiday.
Not all holidays involve a celebratory feast, and not all involve suffering.
[And here I’ll pause with an update a year later: I could cut about a third of this post and replace it with examples and statistics of antisemitism in 2022–2023 but other than rephrasing a couple of sentences, cleaning up some grammar and changing a few words, I’ve left it as it was.]
Stories of Survival
Many Jewish holidays begin with stories of survival. It’s a narrative theme: An existential threat confronted the Jews. A hero — or God, or a hero on God’s behalf — stepped in, or they came together as a people. Their (our) existence continued.
Something happened. Judaism was allowed to continue, and then the next group of people or evil rulers tried to eradicate us and the next.
And now, in response, we eat symbolically relevant dishes to celebrate survival. (“Let’s eat!”)