Jerome Robbins Director of the world famous Broadway hit Fiddler On The Roof when asked what was the shows main story line he said – Tradition. Yes, it was a story about oppressed Jewish life in Czarist Russia their resilience and constant need to move about reflecting the many journeys of Jews throughout history but first and foremost it was a story deeply rooted in Tradition.
Pesach is synonymous with Tradition.
The universal recitation of “the four”, the four questions, four cups of wine, and the four sons sets the foundation and is a prelude to the perennial retelling of the story of yetzias mitzraim our miraculous journey out of Egypt.
I asked a prominent Rebbetzin what were the lessons given over by her father to her and her siblings on Pesach. Her father is a renown Chasidishe Rebbe with tens of thousands of followers the world over in Israel, the US and Europe.
She said her father The Rebbe emphasized the hachana the preparation of the maror the bitter herb and the charoses the bitter herb dipped in wine with nuts and apples. These symbolize our ancestors back breaking work and the mortar they handmade to build the bricks in Mitzraim.
One of the key aspects of Pesach is to tell the story. The Rebbe’s emphasis to his children is that by concentrating on the preparation you are in fact laying the foundation for the deeper meaning of Pesach. We may have toiled hard as slaves yet our filial devotion to Hashem never wavered.
The story of Pesach is not about cleaning the house of leavened bread, although it is.
It is not about the shopping for special food or eating it, although it is.
It is not about new clothing we wear on Pesach, although it is that too.
The mesorah the Rebetzin’s father instilled in his children and she in turn in her children is in the preparation which they consider the underpinning of pesach. Chasidus is all about mesorah, traditions. And traditions like laws are meant to be perpetuated.
Every person, every family has a story.
For children and grandchildren hearing stories on Pesach is important. In some homes of European descent it may be stories from the ‘lager’ the concentration camps.
For others it may be the early years of growing up in the ‘old neighborhood’ a different time and place from today.
It shouldn’t make a difference what the stories are as long as family stories are shared so they can be repeated again by your children and then again by their children.
In my home Pesach means being together with family. This is a mesorah given over by my in laws that their three children and grandchildren be together for Pesach to the extent possible. This provides the opportunity for cousins to spend many days and nights together talking, learning, playing, sharing stories about yesterday and yesteryear.
It means siblings, children, grandchildren watching my brother in law Luzi prepare the maror and charoses in the way his father a”h did and his father before that.
This is the exact lesson that the Rebbetzin was recounting to me that her father the chasidishe Rebbe was extolling to his children. Canoch L’nar Al Pi Darko, teach the child according to his ability to learn takes on an added emphasis on Pesach.
Fiddler on The Roof was not cast as a story about Pesach. It was a story about Tradition.
Would they have cast Tevya as the father leading the seder and Tradition being a song about Pesach it is likely a few more people could be humming about Pesach year round.
By making Pesach fun for the kids repeatedly teaching them their family traditions we embed into their psyche a most enjoyable aspect of the chag.
This in turn will help them complete the circle first by learning the stories then by repeating them at the Seder and ultimately recounting these stories to their own grandchildren.
Fiddler On The Roof was entertaining but it was a show. Contrast the shallowness of Broadway with the real life several thousand years’ experience of Pesach. That is the mesorah the tradition we imbue in our children. Traditions to be carried forth for scores, hundreds and thousands of years.