For my good friends and family – aka those who were zocheh to be at my wedding 9 years ago – you will probably by now be familiar with my comparison of Winnie-the-Pooh’s personal struggles to those we go to reliving the Exodus from Egypt. My husband and I produced a Haggadah to tell that story.
But since 2005, I have met quite a few people, and, having just gotten inspired by Yonatan Sredni’s brilliant piece entitled “The Great Muppet Seder,” I thought I’d take this opportunity to put into a few lines some of the basic ideas of Pooh at the Seder.
When I first decided to examine Winnie The Pooh’s possible interpretation of the Haggadah, I was shocked that I hadn’t as yet been beaten to the mark. Many authors have written on Pooh’s philosophy on life, world and the universe, but it seems he was never given a copy of the Haggadah – the second most widely read Jewish text following the Bible. Since Pooh would have had what to say had he seen it, I have taken my two most favourite books Winnie The Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner, and tried to imagine – with a little help from various rabbinic commentators – to try and get into our bear-stuffed-with-fluff’s brain on such a fundamental philosophical question of the Exodus from Egypt.
What is Pesach all about? Telling the story of leaving (the yetziya) slavery/restrictions (mitzrayim) for (cherut) freedom. Hence Pesach is also known as zeman cherutaynu. We all have a duty to teach this to our children, since the greatest education is what we learn from them: “The disciples of the sages increase peace throughout the world, as it is said, And all thy children shall be taught of the L-rd; and great shall be the peace of they children. Read not hear banayich, thy children (or disciples) but bonayich, thy builders.” Children are our builders. They build a future for the entire Jewish nation. So we must constantly teach our children, so that they too can teach their children.
My basic idea was this: every single person at the seder has a struggle, a deep-seated stickiness they need to constantly work against. But it’s not easy because human nature has this drive to keep repeating the same behaviours. And we see this so clearly with our beloved, cute, fluffy, Winnie-the-Pooh.
Sometimes our trap is so simple that we overlook it. We are unable to change the things we do every day. We know they are wrong, like when we play up at school, or fight with each other, but we carry on anyway. Winnie does that too:
Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Chaim Reuven. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn’t.
The Jewish People are so blessed. Hashem chose us from All The Other Nations to follow His Holy Torah and do all His Mitzvot. Sometimes it feels like we are trapped when we have to do all His Mitzvot. But we have the seder, Pesach, to discover how it’s not a trap at all.
Let’s take this Pesach – especially during the opportune time of the seder – to figure out what our particular destructive repetitive behavior is and step by step, find a way to change that. Whoever you are – Fozzie Bear, Winnie the Pooh or even Minnie Mouse – it’s time to start modifying your actions.