THE HAND OFF
Rabbi David Walk
Pesach is upon us. This usually ushers in great trepidation for house keepers. However, I'd like to believe that heads of household are equally concerned with the material to be presented at the Seder as with the food to be served. The essence of the night is pedagogic, rather than gastronomic. So, with that in mind, let's talk educational goals for the night. The first thing you need to do is make a lesson plan. To do this you must know the objective of the lesson, then the level of the students, and, finally, the activities designed to guide the students towards that objective. I know who the primary students are, because the source of this mitzvah to teach at the Seder is: And you shall tell your child on that day, saying, "Because of this, the Lord did this for me when I went out of
To tell the truth, our Sages really gave us a lesson plan. We call it the Haggada. Twenty five hundred years ago the Men of the Great Assembly began composing this small book. It has grown over the centuries, but it's still a modest tome. But it still requires some work to pinpoint the central idea. Raban Gamliel gives us some guidance by telling us that if we haven't explained the significance of the Pesach sacrifice, the Matzah and the Maror (bitter herb), we haven't fulfilled our obligation. Although there is some controversy, we assume that the obligation he's referring to is the mitzvah of telling the children about the exodus from
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks the charismatic and scholarly Chief Rabbi of the
I believe that this commitment led to the education process represented by the Matza. Matza is a very complex symbol. At the outset of our Seder we break one Matza and declare that it is the bread of poverty or affliction. So, at the beginning of the evening Matza represents the slavery. However, by time we've completed telling the story, Raban Gamliel tells us that Matza is the symbol of the redemption. Well, which is it? The answer, of course, is both. Perhaps the greatest lesson of the night and of the
The third component is Maror, which is all about remembering. Just as Rabbi Sacks has informed us, the third leg of this triangle is memory. Our national identity is based upon our national memory. We are required to keep the taste of Matza on our palate as the Seder ends, but we're required to keep the bitter taste of Maror throughout our lives. When we forget the oppressions of our past, we become vulnerable in our future. This memory is our guide to our future.
Does this mean that I reject Rabbi Sack's placement of parenting in a central place to the achievement of freedom? No, not at all. Look back in the Haggadah. What comes right after Raban Gamliel has informed us of the importance of these three core symbols? We are told that as a result of this new insight we must internalize the
Maimonides has a variation in our text. Our version reads that we must see ourselves as those who left
So, as we are working hard to organize a wonderful Pesach experience for everyone in our household, educational values should be uppermost in our minds. The house must be cleansed of chametz, the marvelous Pesach meals must be prepared, but most importantly we must plan out strategies for passing on our most cherished values to our children.
Chag kasher v'sameach, Happy Pesach!
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