In ev­ery gen­er­a­tion...

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIO­NS - STE­WART WEISS The writer is direc­tor of the Jewish Out­reach Cen­ter of Ra’anana. jocmtv@netvi­sion.net.il

“In ev­ery gen­er­a­tion, one must see him­self as if he per­son­ally had come out of Egypt...”

In many ways, this is the cru­cial phrase, not only in the en­tire Hag­gada but for all of Passover as well. It tells us that we are not just re­liv­ing events of a long ago past, but, rather, are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing real, some­thing rel­e­vant to the here and now, some­thing that can and should pro­foundly change us – no less than our Is­raelite an­ces­tors who un­der­went the dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion from lowly slaves to free and up­stand­ing peo­ple of the highest cal­iber.

What are the es­sen­tial lessons that we should be tak­ing from Passover and from the Seder?

• God surely per­forms mir­a­cles. True, these may not nec­es­sar­ily be out­wardly ob­vi­ous, pub­lic spec­ta­cles, like the Split­ting of the Sea, which by tra­di­tion oc­curred on the sev­enth day of Passover. More of­ten than not, they are con­cealed within nat­u­ral events that seem to us to be quite rou­tine and com­mon­place. But if we are truly “ob­ser­vant,” we per­ceive that Divine as­sis­tance is con­stantly there, help­ing us – both as a na­tion and as in­di­vid­u­als – to ac­com­plish things that oth­er­wise would seem im­pos­si­ble.

• Life has its bit­ter mo­ments. No life is to­tally free of dis­ap­point­ments, sad­ness or, alas, tragedy; many of us keep a chair va­cant at our Seder in mem­ory of a de­parted loved one, and Yizkor memorial prayers are part and par­cel of the hol­i­day liturgy. Maror, like it or not, is a nec­es­sary in­gre­di­ent in the Seder of life, and we must learn to ac­cept that. How­ever, it need not over­shadow or negate the over­whelm­ingly good things with which we are abun­dantly blessed. That’s why we eat just one help­ing of the maror, yet drink four full cups of wine.

• The “Four Chil­dren” we read about are in all of us. Some­times we are mo­ti­vated and en­thu­si­as­ti­cally “turned on” to Ju­daism, like the wise child; at other times we are re­bel­lious, clue­less or just plain ap­a­thetic. We have to work on our­selves ev­ery day in ev­ery way, but the bot­tom line is: We are all blessed

chil­dren of the Almighty, come what may. That’s why the very last step in the Seder process is “Nirtza – ac­cep­tance.”

• We are one with our past. Ju­daism is not a solo act; at the Seder we con­nect across the gen­er­a­tions with all of our an­ces­tors – all the way back to Moses! – who have con­ducted or par­tic­i­pated in Sed­ers past. The an­cient tra­di­tion that Eli­jah the Prophet vis­its ev­ery Seder to drink from his cup (talk about post-Seder hang­overs!) re­minds us that we are a con­tin­u­ing link in the eter­nal chain of the Jewish na­tion. Know­ing that we do not need to go it alone gives us a cer­tain strength and con­fi­dence that we will guarantee our sur­vival by keep­ing the chain go­ing.

• God can­not and will not do all the work. Just as the slaves in Egypt had to cry out in uni­son to God be­fore He came to our res­cue, and Nahshon ben Ami­na­dav had to bravely jump into the sea be­fore it would divide, so, we, too, must take an ac­tive role in re­demp­tion, uti­liz­ing all our strengths and ca­pa­bil­i­ties to part­ner with God so that to­gether we can reach new heights. In short: Don’t wait – cre­ate!

• The mes­sage of Passover’s iconic food, matzah, is: Be proud, yet hum­ble. Moses had to work over­time to con­vince the peo­ple that they were meant for greater things, that slav­ery was not our ul­ti­mate des­tiny. He had to raise our spir­its back to that of a di­vinely cho­sen peo­ple by ban­ish­ing the “11th plague”: de­featism and a lack of na­tional self-con­fi­dence. At the same time, we have to main­tain our sense of mod­esty and hu­mil­ity, ac­knowl­edg­ing that, great as we are and great as we can be, God is even greater.

• Or­der, please! The Seder ser­vice begins with the read­ing of the 14 steps en­com­pass­ing the var­i­ous rit­u­als of the night, a night that we re­fer to as “Seder night.” Al­though we of­ten can­not see it, there is an or­der, a seder, to his­tory, just as chaos does not reign supreme in the uni­verse. God has His plan, and we are a ma­jor part of it; each and ev­ery day, we are com­ing closer to that elu­sive but in­evitable day of glo­ri­ous joy and uni­fi­ca­tion: L’shana haba’a b’Yerusha­layim!

The ‘Four Chil­dren’ we read about are in all of us

ABUN­DANCE: ‘WE eat just one help­ing of the maror, yet drink four full cups of wine.’

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