Who Knows 1, Who Knows 2, Who Knows Who is Next?
At the end of the Seder we sing the song “Who knows One? Reciting verses that increases the count of the opening statement and with each next verse, it becomes more difficult to remember all the elements to be included. Then we culminate with Had Gadyah where next to the last verse we introduce “and then came the angel of death…” I am so afraid that the manner in which we count the generations relevant to The Shoah, we are on a course of creating an angel of death to the experiential memory of perhaps the most tragic event of our nation. We are on a path to a loss of awareness, sensitivity, concern and connection to the future generations’ attachment to the Shoah and it is coming from our design. We can immediately do something about it.
In the ceremonies that will soon take place, speaker after speaker will tell the crowds, write to their readers “you being the 2nd and 3rd generation please participate….” In just a couple of decades, we will be calling our children the 5th, 6th , 10th, 13th generation. There are all kinds of negative implications directly related to that. Including, by labeling a higher number, the risks are perceived as diminished, as the number gets higher the perceived attachment gets further. By the way, this all flies in the face of what the Haggadah is directly telling us this time of year, to recreate an environment, a perception as if we are there.
This appears to have been top of mind in the formulation and evolution of the Haggadah and Seder rituals. Having Passover so close to Yom Hashoah, one could easily recognize the importance of instilling the same disciplines to have the coming generations sense a closeness, to reason as if they were next. The next generation.
As a second generation son of a survivor who has heard his father wake in the middle of the night with screams of fear, anger and deep loss, I am extremely sensitive to this. I feel it physically, mindfully, spiritually and emotionally. I sense it. To a degree I live it. And to a degree I want my children and theirs to feel the same way. I want them to see what I see, feel what I feel, fear what I fear, cherish what I cherish and be on guard as I am on guard. To be sure, My father O’H’ wanted the same thing, because I am confident he felt I was next. When I tell my children you are third generation, I am second, what am I saying….you are further away. If I said you are the next generation a new reality emerges. When they understand they are the next generation, really understand, it is more likely they will take on a necessary posture. Of course I am not suggesting to create an unhealthy anxiety, rather a healthy vision.
Rabbi David Silber in his Haggadah offers an enlightening insight in one of his essays, how the authors of the text chose dialogue that we sight such as “ we suffered…we cried….we were redeemed,” to contribute to the mission of internally experiencing the telling as if we were there. So, a simple but critical proposition, end now the numbering of generations, it is destined for something worse than failure. It is as if it were a design to purposefully remove attachment. The purpose of course is to keep this memory alive. It is as if the Haggadah is telling us to speak in extreme close terms to the event in order to feel it, to be close to the notion of “in every generation they have tried to destroy us.” How relevant is this notion regarding the Holocaust? How inappropriate to use language that creates a distance. As the Israelites cried out to Hashem for a better way this idea must cry out to us.
With the coming of Yom Hashoah and all the ceremony and communications promoting awareness, create a new paradigm. Change the dialogue, let your constituents know there is a new mandate, a new Halacha….Let all know we are not the 2nd Generation, you are not the 3rd nor 4th generation but indeed we are all the “next” generation.
For someone to utter “I am the next generation”…. “we are the next generation” demands an attachment with all the appropriate consequences to that attachment.
Of course we can do this, we need to do this, we must do this. As we have experienced the Seder evolve so to must the grammar of our lives. This time of year, we engage, we pray, we practice, we remember, we relate, we cry, we live, we say “next year in Yerushalayim.” It is time to realize in all we do, all we are to experience that indeed we are next.
The substance of our very being is memory, the substance of our way of living is retaining the reminders of articulating memory.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Have a Ziesen and Kasher Pesach
Zvi Hersh Ben Naftali