(RE) Thinking Passover, Just Come!
Which messages do you have graven in your mind? What things have you renounced, perhaps you miss, perhaps you’re not sure where you left? Could your Jewish identity be one of those things? Are you possibly about to lose the Passover Seder?
If we could stop time for a second, I’d love to think with you about identity!
It is very common in education, and specifically Jewish education, to believe that guilt creates pertinence, constancy, presence.
He came because he felt guilty… He donated because guilt ate him up… There are even people who believe that the state of Israel was created in order to atone the feeling of culpability of the world confronting the horror of the Sho’a. The war of Independence, the pioneers, the Kibbutzim, Moshavim, are nothing compared to the “guilt” of the world…
The feeling of guilt has the capability to dominate and to command our experience. Even though in many moments it manages to touch and to move us, it is not enough in order to transmit and recreate. In fact, the guilt inhibits the transmission from generation to generation (“Ledor Vador”)… The fate of the identity that was internalized through feelings of guilt is denial and disconnection. No one wants to walk in the world carrying a “backpack” full of negative marks!
Educational systems often wish to confer identity. Despite the understanding mentioned above, they focus on the “glass half empty”, they emphasize the risk of losing values rather than concentrate on creating pertinence and on the richness of the particularity and the difference. Connecting individuals to the collective through their own values and beliefs is not considered to be a possibility.
With Passover approaching, and remembering its main precept of “Vehigadeta Lebincha”, the precept of transmission between generations, it is a good idea to ask ourselves what are the messages and legacies which are present in our life.
Keeping this question in mind, let’s take a look at the Haggadah which tells us about the 4 sons: the wise is the one who is interested in the precepts of Passover; the wicked is the one who asks what significance this has “to you”, and by saying “you” excludes himself from the rest; the simple asks “what is this?”; and the fourth is the one who doesn’t know how to ask.
There are many interpretations of the roles of each of the four sons. However, it is clear in my opinion that these “characters” express different positions or ways to face a meaningful entity. Nowadays it is also common to find the Chassidic idea of adding a “fifth son” – the one who is absent, who does not even sit at the Seder table.
When we look at the Haggadah through the framework of pertinence versus absence, the Haggadah’s “judgement” (and with that the lack of authority) becomes clear.
The wise is the one who completely accepts the given model of learning and asks to continue to be “alimented” the same way, with 100% pertinence.
The simple asks in a basic level, pertinence!
The one who doesn’t know how to ask is a character who can aspire to belong.
The wicked is the one who revokes his pertinence (although he is present), and in this way is “cataloged” as a model of absence.
The fifth, who is not present – his absence, his lack of pertinence are determined by him but also by the Haggadah, which chooses not to mention him. And in this last case I propose to you to read the word “Haggadah” as the Jewish Institute, Shil, Temple, Sinagogue, College, Rabbis, etc.
This framework raises two questions:
First, what has happened to our model if every year we are more “the wicked” and “the fifth”? And second, “we” the “absent”, what is our pertinence and what do we own, not according to the model which right now is not sure how to treat us, but rather out of our own recognition of value.
How many times have you heard someone answering questions of where, with whom, or do you participate in a Seder this year, saying “yes BUT…”
Yes but I go for the sake of my grandparents / parents
Yes but because I like the food
Yes but I don’t eat Kosher in Passover
Yes but we don’t read the whole thing
Yes but I only go to see my family
Yes but this is the only thing I do
Our motives have hidden themselves behind a “BUT”, as if assuming that they are inferior, minor, or in any case certainly not the most important!
For some reason, the experience / the Jewish pertinence, the pretty one, the folkloric one, which can have or not have religious aspects, remained hidden behind a BUT, disguised as absence. But its true character is not of absence, it is a treasure!
The BUT turns us all into the “wicked” because unfailingly we are out of the “norm”, which I’m not sure who is to define, or by which entity it is determined!
Unfortunately, our own lack of pluralism is what puts us in “danger of extinction”.
Did you know? The Haggadah of Passover and the festivity as we know them nowadays appeared at some moment in which the sages (facing the destruction of the temple) had to ask themselves how to continue. The exodus, the text, the customs, are all answers to the challenge to remain a People.
The form in which we celebrate Pesach is folklore “par excellence”, and the diversity is no doubt one of the pillars that sustain the Jewish People. Seculars, humanists, religious, orthodox, liberal, spiritual, cultural… Each of us is partner with responsibility to provide his own input while respecting the other!
To this end, this year try to liberate yourself of the BUT and take pride in your contribution!
Because you like the Matzoh balls or the Geffilteh fish, or because you eat rice in Passover, because you do not eat rice in Passover, because you add texts to the Haggadah, because you stick to the text, because you choose some parts, because you go to the Shil, because you do it with friends, because this is your family’s tradition, because you do the Halel, because you eat Matzah and Horseraddish, it is your choice why!
Because your absence is our loss, and your pertinence the way you choose it to be, is, was and will be our richness!
Ha!! And if you meet someone who doesn’t do or doesn’t participate in a Seder, invite him to yours or offer him to do one together!