In just a few days we will be gathered around our tables to retell the story of our people's liberation. Remembering is a mitzvah! But do you think it's an exercise in nostalgia? The mitzvah to remember the Exodus is meant to guide our lives in the here and now. This MATZA, this SEDER, these BITTER HERBS, must speak to our soul; Today!!!! How can we make these rituals and words that are so familiar to us to breathe new fire into our souls?
The HAGGADAH presents us with 4 children: the wise, the wicked, the simple and the child who doesn't know how to ask. Who are these children? Can we find them in our homes? In our Shuls? In our community? Perhaps.
The 4 children need not be children at all, other than in the sense that we are all children of one G-d. Who are these 4?
The first is the wise child, what does he or she ask????? "What are the statutes, the laws and the ordinances which G-d has commanded you?" The one who asks this question asks about the ordinances, "G-d has commanded you!!!!" Like the wicked child he also appears on the outside looking in. But he is seriously interested in the details of our faith. She is searching for the inner meaning of the SEDAR. This child wants to study, to grow, to become immersed in Judaism.
In our midrash, the child is, perhaps the Jew by choice, the potential convert. The Talmud teaches us that "the most righteous of all Jews can never achieve the spiritual phase of the righteous convert". Many communities are finding that Jews-By-Choice are becoming the leaders of congregations. They are Hahamim, wise in the sense that they learn our faith as adults, not as children. They bring to their study all the critical faculties that allow them a sophisticated knowledge of the statutes, the laws and the ordinances of our people. In a time of assimilation when our people are threatened, they represent a new source of vitality and wisdom.
How sad it is, that in Israel today, there are those who do not recognize the majority of Jewish converts who are taught by Conservative and Reform rabbis. How tragic, that as we recall our ancient liberation from bondage, there are Jews who would oppress other Jews.
The second 'child' is the wicked one but this is my midrash and the 2nd child is not evil. In fact I assume he or she is sincere and oh so pious. So high up on the frummometer. What is the avoda of yours????? There are so many spiritual pathways to G-d. There are, according to our sages 70 faces to the Torah, and like the facets of a diamond, each shines brightly, each leads us to a knowledge of an understanding of THE ONE. But there are those who only know the one face, who only know the one way, who believe there is only one Torah and that one Torah is theirs and theirs alone.
What is this ritual of yours they ask?
It's not the one WE know!!!!!
It's not OUR Torah!!!!!
It's not OUR answer!!!!!
It's a different melody!!!!!
There are Jews, who discount any interpretation, any spritual pathway that is unfamiliar. This is YOURS!! they say. This is foreign. This is new and different! What is this BAT Mitzvah, how can you skip this prayer? How dare you celebrate with men and women together!! Women Rabbis? Gay marriages? There are those who see Jews who worship differently and think of them as the OTHERS. And by doing so we separate vital parts of the community from the mainstream. ULIFEE SHEHOTSEU ET ATZMAM MIN HACLAL ---- because the attackers remove themselves or others from the mainstream, they mush be reminded: ILU HAYA SHAM LO HAYA NIGAL.
Our Jewish community depends on each committed Jew. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Zionist, Federation, Tzedaka Giver. When any one of these components separates itself from the community. The community is weakened in its entirety.
The 3rd child is the simple child. He/she asks MA ZOT????? What is this???????
This is Amha, your typical Jew. He or she is not here this Shabbat. But being Jewish in some amorphous way is important to him. He will put a mezuzah on the door, send her children to Hebrew School, attend a seder, light Hannukkah lights and attend synagogue on Yom Kippur.
We don't answer these Jews like we answer the wise child. We don't tell him ALL the ordinance and the statutes, the details of the law. We are not disappointed When they don't swarm into our synagogues. We remind them instead you too were released from Egypt. You too witnessed the plagues and the Sea of Reeds, the hand of G-d.
I grew up in an all or nothing world, either you keep Shabbat or you don't. I so admire the Chabadniks who believe as I do that every mitzvah brings redemption to the world and brings us closer to G-d. If we can invite the tam, the "simple" child to one Shabbos dinner, if we can show them the beauty of Sukkot or Tzedakah we will bring the messiah one step closer.
Who is the 4th child? The one who doesn't know to ask? These are Jews who are so peripheral, so assimilated that we don't know who some of them are. The Haggadah teaches us "AT P'TAH LO", "You open his mouth for him." It is our task, the task of committed, informed Jews to seek them out, to open up dialogue, to educate their children.
Some Jews are so far away, we must bring them closer. Some are bitter about their Judaism, we must answer their bitterness with love and compassion. It is our job to find them, to be MIKAREV, to bring them close to us.
We must remember and remind even the most assimilated, "You are blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh. You too, are part of the people Israel."
My sweetest friends, as we read of the 4 children this Passover, let us remind ourselves of the vitality being brought to our people by newly converted Jews, of the pressing need to bring our divided people together and of the mitzvah to integrate into our people the assimilated Jews in our midst.