(For what’s on over Pesach, look at the IsraelB online community)
I remember I heard Raphael Zarum ( now Rabbi Dr) share the following idea, that I would like to share with you all and hopefully you will share it at your Sedarim tonight.
Seder night is all about sharing a story. But, what story are we sharing?
We are sharing two parallel stories, two narratives.
One on the national, historical, collective level and the other on the personal, intimate, individual level.
On the national level we recall how G-d brought us out of Egypt, the plagues, the miracles, the verses from the Bible and as a result of all that, praising and thanking G-d and showing appreciation.
There is however a second story we are telling at Seder Night. That is, we are sharing how we were personally told the story of the Exodus and Pesach during Seder night. The tunes, the cuisine, the jokes and the insights we heard as children around the Seder table. How the story was told to us by our parents and grandparents as children growing up. Included in that, is the story of the Exodus of own family from persecution and slavery.
We also see this second form of telling through the Hagadah. For instance, the story of when the sages were sitting in Bnei Barak, they were telling over how they were told the story. The four sons, reflects different types of ways the story must be told – There is no one way to share the Exodus story, but rather it must be personal, individualized and relevant.
The emphasis on questions and answers in the Seder, reflects how we must be engaging with those around us and pass on those discussions we had to future generations. Those personalized answers and insights we heard as children and the discussions we had, are as much as our tradition and Jewish identity, as all the narratives we read from the text of the Hagadah itself.
On Seder night we share how we were personally told the story and not just the story of the Exodus itself.
The Rambam writes that we must see ourselves as we personally left Egypt – That story is based on how we were told the story from our grandparents and parents.
Furthermore, during Temple times, the eating of the Korban Pesach ( the pascal lamb) was the focus of the Seder. That eating of the Korban Pesach was done in the context of the ‘Chaburah’ – the intimate, closed, unit – the family. The eating of the Korban Pesach during the Seder, was done in the private, not public domain. Why? Because it was only in the, ‘chaburah’, the intimate, family unit that the personal, family traditions could be passed on and celebrated.
So, what is Seder Night all about?
It’s about celebrating that we are part of two dual traditions, two heritages, two communities, both equally important.
On the one hand, we are part of a broader, collective unit, but also we are part of an intimate, family unit.
We have a national identity based on our texts, laws and rituals, but we also have a personal identity based on how our Judaism and heritage was passed on to us, from our grandparents and parents.
Wishing you all an enjoyable and meaningful Seder where you all celebrate your memories and relationships.