By Murray Weiss, DNAinfo.com June 21, 2012
BROOKLYN — Four men were arrested Thursday morning for allegedly offering a $500,000 bribe to a sexually abused teenager to get her to drop charges against a popular Orthodox community counselor who is presently on trial in Brooklyn.
My Pass over..
.Jennifer A. Molinari April 11, 2012
Maggid is the brief explanation of what is about to happen.
The head of the household tells the story.
Broken Matzoh - this is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in Egypt . Whoever is hungry let him come and eat. Whoever is needy let him come and celebrate. Now we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel. Now we are slaves, next year we will be free.
As we sit around the table year after year discussing the affliction of our ancestors in Egypt we ignore the issues that surround us in our own homes which in turn creates even more affliction. We talk about the hungry, we talk about the homeless. We talk about slavery, we talk about freedom. What are the things we don't talk about? This brings us to the point... What is a Seder? Why do we have a Seder? Why do we tell the same story year after year and not really learn from it on a daily basis?
Why do we put more effort into the Seder table than the people sitting around it? Sorry, these are not the four questions... they're mine! The four questions are asked by the youngest person present at the Seder. He/she asks the reasons why this night is different from all other nights. Why on other nights can we eat bread and Matzoh but tonight only Matzoh? Why on all other nights we eat many vegetables but tonight we eat maror? Why on all other nights we do not dip even once but on this night we dip twice? Why on all other nights we eat sitting or reclining but tonight we recline?
Now, for the answers... We can answer each question individually and analyze it the way we do the entire Haggadah. Very simply the story of the exodus is as follows: we were slaves to pharaoh in Egypt but Hashem took us out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Had HE not done so, our children and our children's children would have remained slaves. Even if we were all wise, understanding, experienced, and Torah scholars we would still be obligated to tell about the exodus from Egypt . It very clearly states 'the more one tells about the exodus the more he is praiseworthy.' A Seder is a ritual performed by a community which involves retelling the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
The Passover plate symbolizes order and arrangement; an egg, a bone, a bitter herb, a green vegetable, and charoset. The egg is roasted to remind us of the special Passover sacrifice of a lamb. The bone reminds us that after the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed there were no more sacrifices. The bitter herb helps us to feel the bitterness of suffering and slavery. The green vegetable served as a garnish. We dip, we dip twice! The charoset is a symbol of the clay which Jews used to makes bricks out of. The Seder commands the Jews to retell the story of the exodus from Egypt . It is because of what G-d did that we gather to tell this important story. It's so important we repeat it throughout the Seder. When something is worthy of repetition, we make note of it.
The moral of the story is to tell the story again and again so that we never forget the pain and suffering of our ancestors. Why don't we really learn from the story? Instead, we recite it, we listen to it, we sing it but many of us do not apply it to our every day lives- just on this one night. We only practice these customs on this one night because we are commanded to. Why don't we go around the table where everyone shares how they have learned and applied this story to their present instead of taking turns saying the same words which have very little meaning to those feeling invisible at the table? The amount of energy that goes into the whole holiday is confusing. From the inability to watch bread rise to the thorough cleaning of the home we do things very meticulously. We even use special dishes. The night before Passover the head of the house searches for chametz and the holiest of homes will only use matzoh shmurah (the matzoh is guarded, carefully protected).
So, on Passover we give a lot of attention to our comfort; reclining is symbolic with wealth and freedom. Last but not least we have a very special cup of wine for the profit, Eliyahu Hanavi. The kids’ entertainment is the afikomen which has become a custom for the children to steal and hide it. The child who is able to do so gets to request a materialistic item for self gratification. We'll spoil kids with unnecessary 'things,' but turn a blind eye to truth that evades us. Telling the story is so important that it's noted in 4 places. The reason for that is that the Torah tries to explain the way in which it answers 4 different kinds of sons: wise, wicked, simple, and one too young to even know how to ask questions. The wise son asks 'what are the rules and regulations that G-d commands us to keep?' (The rules of Passover up to the very last one, the afikomen) The wicked son asks 'what purpose is this work to you?' (I do this because G-d helped me) The simple son asks 'what's all this for?' (G-d took us out of Egypt, out of slavery with his strength) The young one unable to ask (I do this because G-d helped me)
The narrator of this sad but meaningful journey from slavery to freedom commands his table. To question or challenge any spoken word is forbidden. To express emotion and feelings unrelated to this sacred story is ill advised and yet when it comes to the things we 'do not' speak of, there is no good time. I beg to differ. This should be the time when we talk repeatedly about our own pain and suffering along with those who have lived before us. After all, this whole story is about how G-d saved us from evil. We praise his love for us, his miraculous parting of the red sea, and of course his signs and wonders which elude us. Conversely, HE can punish those who have wronged us. G-d passed over the homes of our fathers in Egypt and saved our families. We are supposed to live by HIS example. We must thank and praise G-d for all of his beauty and goodness. It is not this story that I find fault in, it is in those narrators who have yet to apply its meaning and forwarding purpose to their audience.
I can’t tell you how many Seders I have led personally, part in parcel to my families lack of Jewish knowledge. They sent me to a Yeshiva to learn tradition, custom and Jewish law and when I came home to apply what I learned, I was met with confusion and doubt. I was mocked for my beliefs and the hope that Eliyahu Hanavi would make a visit to my home not just to drink wine but to save me from my family and bring me to the Promised Land. I would like to take this opportunity to share that I have met Eliyahu personally. He came to me in the form of a child and has proven that children really are the innocent messengers. I was invited to many Seders in my life and was always asked to participate in the narration because I was able to read Hebrew with rhythmic fluidity and I delivered the message with clarity and passion. Not only because I believe in the past and in order to effect change we must study and remember it, but because I chose to use what I learned and apply it to my every day life.
To this day, I still don’t understand why I only get dinner invitations on the Sholosh R’golim considering I must eat every day. I have been taught that for the Jewish people history is the key to survival because history is the greatest narrator. Is this not a contradiction then when I began working with child abuse victims, that I was informed that Jewish homes frown upon discussing what may have occurred to their children in the past? Why is it okay that we recall historical events of pain and suffering of people we never even knew but we must ignore and cast aside the ones we bring into the world?
The problem I had at most of these Seders was that the same questions were asked repeatedly and of course they were always answered repeatedly. It is probably the only holiday in which I notice a clear repetition of a question/answer key like the best cheat sheet ever written. I have never disrespected authority especially my Rabbinical mentors but I have questioned them repeatedly why Rabbi’s offer suggestions on how to deal with the pain and suffering of today’s children of physical and sexual abuse when they do not have a historical message to use as its example.
The pride I take in being Jewish is insurmountable and I have an inordinate amount of love for G-d despite how people continue to tell me that because I do not live like them, I am not Jewish enough. I’m not even sure what that means. What I do know is that I thank G-d with every breath I take and I pray for HIS world, to not only honor the past, but to recognize the present and save the future. The most innocent victims of affliction may just be sitting at your Seder table and when the youngest begins to ask the 4 questions, perhaps 4 other little questions should run in the mind of the narrator and those in attendance
Would my child trust me enough to share their pain and suffering with me if necessary? Do I provide him/her with a safety net that is guarded like the Matzoh we use for Passover? Would I seriously apply the Afokimen’s meaning to not only end the Seder, but truly listen to something that is forbidden to discuss on an ordinary day and repeat that message? Have I made it clear to my children that they are the most important ‘order’ of business on any given day and that their feelings matter?
In conclusion, if Passover is the remembrance that our freedom came at the price of the suffering of others, do we not have an obligation then to acknowledge that our future is in jeopardy at the price of ignoring and undermining a real epidemic in a culture that thrives on unity? My goal was to keep children protected and safe from stranger danger indeed, but more often at times sadly, they are hurt by the hands of their own parents, teachers, clergy, relatives, friends and people with whom they freely give implicit trust.
The Seder is such a special service that it isn’t even conducted in a Shul. It is a holiday where the family must be present in the home; the holiest sanctuary of all. Is it not done with the intent that the children will learn their responsibility to carry on this and many other traditions?We, as Jews, believe the Moshiach will come and free us and bring us to the Promised Land. My fear is that the Moshiach just might pass over the homes of those that do not take full responsibility for their children’s pain and affliction now.I believe in all of G-d’s miracles and I have prayed continuously for awareness to a problem that Rabbi’s alone, are not qualified to teach.
In certain areas, they do not have all the answers. I do not pretend to be a worldly scholar and preach the Torah’s message. However, I do know the pain and suffering that goes on inside a child that is hiding and scared. It is my belief that if we conducted a controlled discussion from time to time using our internal Haggadah’s, everyone, especially the children, would be able to take turns asking questions, getting answers, and do as commanded; talk about tragedy, reflect on freedom and express gratitude to G-d for all of our blessings.
The greatest Mitzvah is not what we do for G-d; it is what we do for others because we are made in His image. Mitzvot are immediate requirements. If we wait too long to reach out to the ones we not only love, but are responsible for carrying on our traditions, time becomes the enemy and we have learned absolutely nothing. I do not insult my faith nor tolerate those who do, because I have the most meaningful relationship with G-d than anyone I know personally. I plead with those who share my faith to remember to protect the young and innocent. Not to wait until a book is written or an ‘order’ given, on how to ensure your child’s safety or why it is the most important Mitzvah of all.
Our final obligation, by which the totality of our lives is measured, is the Mitzvah of Tikun Olam; to do whatever is in our ability to improve, perfect, save and heal the world. My goal for this story is that it can be used as a guide. Not to just read and repeat it continuously but to learn and apply it where it matters most. Reflecting on the past shouldn’t be conditional and restricted to the stories, pain and suffering of our ancestors. Living in the present should be unconditional and freeing to all of us, all of the time, not just on special occasions and holidays where we are commanded to.
I want to leave you with a thought: A divorced Rabbi just called me to ask me advice on how to handle a situation he is currently having with his children. Of course, not every problem is about abuse. He simply wanted guidance how to connect with his children on an emotional level. Do you find it perplexing how I can offer a Rabbi guidance and support especially where his children are concerned? Maybe in doing so, I have done my part and have shared some guiding light. As I begin to transition from my career and life’s work to actually applying all I’ve acquired and learned, I recognize a sense of freedom and can finally focus on what is really important: love. Spending time with my family, friends and inner circle; their love sustains and completes me and my cup runneth over with an abundance of joy. I reflect on my past full of pain and suffering, celebrate the present with amazing grace and humble gratitude and ultimately envision a future filled with peace and happiness. If you are not afraid of the answers, the questions come easier, trust me. Mah Nishtanah? Because I have applied what I’ve learned throughout my life on a daily basis and I look to my future with renewed faith having dealt with and by conquering my past.
Anything is possible…. L’chaim!
Finest Life Support, LLCJennifer A. Molinari 1.888.507.OGOD
In working with many Jewish families, it became necessary to develop a series to Follow The Lady Bug – it helps relate to kids and their families in a culturally sensitive way.
Written by Jennifer A. Molinari
Illustrated by Beth Allen