by Rabbi Jill Maderer
What is the true miracle of Pesach? Study the first half of the Book of Exodus or watch the film “The Ten Commandments” and it is clear: When the people of Israel, enslaved for generations, flees the Pharaoh’s horse-driven armies and escapes through the parted Sea of Reeds, the miracle is liberation! And we will celebrate this liberation at our RS Second Night Seder!
Of course, there are always at least two answers to every Jewish question. So yes, the miracle of Pesach is redemption. And yet, embedded in our Haggadah, we find another miracle. In rabbis of antiquity framed the biblical Exodus narrative with their own symbolism and messages. Their focus highlights a second miracle that we celebrate even today.
In the telling of the story, we learn of the Four Children (traditionally known as the four sons): the wise child, the wicked child, the simple child and the one who does not know how to ask. (Generations of commentary have yielded fascinating messages about these four children; we’ll study them another time). After the description of the four children, the Haggadah instructs: “Even if all of us were smart, all of us wise, all of us experienced, all of us learned in Torah, we would still be commanded to discuss the Exodus from Egypt.”
Contemporary scholar Rabbi Arthur Green explains: “Even if we all know the story, we are commended to tell it again. Even a person who is childless is bound to tell the story. We tell it to pass it down from generation to generation. But at the Jewish old folk’s home, where the youngest participant is 75 years old, everyone is still required to tell the tale. Storytelling for its own sake, you might call it, whether there is anyone “new” who needs to hear it or not. You might call this the miracle of Pesach.”
If, as Rabbi Green explains, we tell the tale in order to pass it through the generations, why does a community of only elderly folks need to tell the tale? Perhaps, in each of us, lies every generation. Tradition teaches us that we were all at Mount Sinai receiving Torah; the sages are not concerned with actual history or a linear concept of time. Jewish life exists in cycles and circles. Perhaps, within each of us, lies the child, the middle age person, the aged. Spiritually, we each bring all of those generations to the seder table.
Still, practically, in order to pass the story from one generation to the next, we do our best to gather the generations for the seder Pesach. The endless links in the chain are strong because Jewish life understands this survival strategy. The miracle of Pesach is that we Jews love to tell our story.
At RS, diversity is our strength and also our challenge. Often, we address the challenge of diversity by creating different programs for different populations, in the attempt to serve different needs. One-size fits all programs are difficult, both for the rabbis and for the congregants! But diversity is also our strength and for this year’s RS Second Night Seder, we plan to celebrate that strength!
So whether you are an adult ready for deep study, an infant ready for a diaper-change, a child ready to find the afikomen, I hope you will plan to join us! With a blend of musical styles, early-evening fun for all and later-evening fun for the adults when families with young children might have to head home for bed, a moderately-priced but lovely meal, and a bit of patience, we hope to create a wonderful, multi-generational seder that has something for everyone! Many thanks to the wonderful congregants who have suggested we take this new direction!
I look forward to celebrating with you the Pesach miracle of the telling of the tale, from one generation to another! May you have a sweet and meaningful Pesach.