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Entries in Pesach (4)


The Seder's Wise Child - Missing the Point?

Of the four children at the seder, the answer to the wise child is the only one not taken from the biblical verses. Instead, we teach this child a law, that

one does not eat anything after the Pesach sacrifice (afikoman).


While we hold the oral law in high esteem, the fact remains that for whatever reason (and many reasons are offered for this anomaly), this child is set apart from the other three, in that the educational words explicitly laid out by the Torah itself are not given over to this child. The child is willy-nilly “poresh min hatzibbur”, separated out from the community of children and deprived of the original words of the Torah.

Could this in some subtle fashion result from the fact that this child is not whole-hearted (is not tam)? is too involved with his or her own intellect, the minutaie or casuistry, to be listening to the other children’s questions with any interest, due to undervaluing the place of fresh and innocent questions? Does this child perhaps not want to be lumped with the others, and is trying very hard to talk on an adult level – and has therefore forefeited a place with the children, the central feature of the seder, and the biblical verses given to them as a gift?

Ultimately, the child is included in the four children, of course, but we cannot but notice this fact setting him or her apart.

My advice would be, do not let the wise child grow up too quickly. Help these children stay connected to their genuine childish nature and educate them not to look down on the other children for fear of missing Gd’s revelation in the verses, that comes marked with a big sign marked “CHILDREN ONLY”. 


A new festival bursts forth from the darkness

Chiddush heard from Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden: Why did the date of the decree to destroy the Jewish people fall on 13th Adar? Because that's the day furthest away from Pesach. The next day, 14th Adar, we already begin to plan towards the next Pesach as it says in the Shulchan Aruch, 30 days before the festival we begin to plan.

This tremendous idea got me thinking. From the very darkest place, where the light of redemption was the dimmest, a brand new festival broke through, an entire marvelous new festival of redemption (with yet more eating, of course!). From within the darkness the most amazing things are born.

Such born things may differ from their source in unexpected ways. The Purim energy is not by any means identical to the Pesach energy. The latter seems clean, clear and straight, while the former seems dark, concealed, twisting and turning.  I would go so far as to suggest that this world is divided into Purim people and Pesach people. (I know which one I am... which one are you?)

In any event it's good we have both. So thank you Haman - couldn't have done it without you.


Seeing Elijah

"בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו כאילו הוא יצא ממצרים"

"In every generation, each of us must see ourselves as if we ourselves emerged from Egypt."

I want to revisit the above statement in a bit of a chassidic way - I have adapted the following story:

The story is told of a young man who was pestering his rebbe. "I want to see Eliyahu at Pesach time, I want to really meet Eliyahu." He pestered him thus for days. Finally the rebbe said: "Not just anyone gets to see Eliyahu. You have to earn it. Here, take this food and medicine and walk a day and a half's journey to a Jewish family who live in a distant village."

Eagerly, the young man took the supplies and set off. The journey was difficult, he got lost, and when he finally arrived, he had trouble locating the Jewish family. He gave them the supplies. They gratefully asked him to stay for dinner, and even though he was running late and impatient to get home, he stayed and smiled with them so as not to ruin their joy. The next morning he had to get up extremely early and go back the way he came, getting lost again.

Finally he arrived home, irritated and exhausted."Rebbe, I did everything you said and I did not meet Eliyahu! You lied to me."

Calmly the rebbe said: "The reason you didn't meet him is because he is right here in the next room!"

The young man's face lit up, and he followed the rebbe's finger into the other room. "Look to the left as you walk in and you'll see him!" the rebbe called after him.

Disappointed, the young man came out again.

"Did you see him?"

"All I saw was a mirror!"

"Exactly! And when you looked in the mirror, what did you see? The Eliyahu Hanavi in yourself."

In every generation, each of us must see ourselves - for that is the very essence of leaving Egypt. To see the highest self we can perceive when we look in the mirror, and live in the knowledge of that expanded self.

(And כאילו is like כאליהו [thanks Ursula!])



Mindful Matzah

Until now I was aware of only two kinds of eating in the Jewish calendar - not eating i.e. on fast days, and eating a lot as part of a mitzvah, on Shabbat/Yom Tov and especially Purim (also on erev Yom Kippur it's a mitzvah to eat).

But now I see that Pesach is a third way - a week of simple food, avoiding all those baked goods we like to eat, a week when the food is different and it draws our attention to how and what we eat. The point is not to imitate our usual fare with Pesach bread rolls and Pesach bizzli but to see what happens when things are different, when we lack the usual variety of consumer products. Mindful eating.

Which is why, much as I dislike the whole kitniyot thing, it actually serves a purpose at least in Israel, as it severely limits what you can buy in the supermarket; which keeps up the spirit of limited diet on Pesach. Food for thought?

Chag sameach.