Four Additional Questions for Passover

A reader post by Chaim Zalman Hutz


Question 1: Why do you feel the need to make every Jewish event about everyone other than the Jewish people?

This one is a real head-scratcher. Every Pesach (Passover), I see new articles floating around about a new thing to add to the Seder plate to represent some marginalized people. Oranges, artichokes, soul food, and all kinds of things. I’m sure people are now advocating to put marijuana on the Seder plate too (which I kind of understand, given that it might help some of our more Matzah-averse brethren gobble down their dry crackers). Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t give attention to battered women, people in poverty or any other oppressed people, but can we take a little time for ourselves please? Last time I checked, there were no Palestinians among Moses’s crew at the Exodus. You have the whole rest of the year to advocate for whomever you want, but on Passover, maybe spend more than five minutes thinking about what it means to be Jewish and why that matters before turning your attention to everyone else. As hard as it is to hear, charity begins at home, and right now, the Jewish people are again becoming a marginalized group in every country except Israel. God does in fact help those who help themselves.

Question 2: Why do you need so many different versions of the Haggadah?

Every year, I see this exact Facebook post, and it is always from someone who lives outside of Israel: “I have a ___ year old child who is showing very little interest in Judaism, what can I do to convince my child to participate in this years Seder?”. The most common answer is to start listing off various versions of the Haggadah that people come up with to sell to desperate Jewish parents in the Diaspora. The Harry Potter Haggadah, the Social Justice Haggadah, the Christmas Haggadah (I have no idea if the last one exists, but I am sure it will eventually). This always baffled me, because I went to the Pesach Seder even as a child and the story is full of wild stuff that can capture the imagination of any child without the help of JK Rowling. The 10 plagues, a miraculous escape from slavery and the splitting of the sea are all pretty incredible parts of an amazing story, why is there a need to add extra meaning to it by shoehorning western social justice causes into it? All that serves to do is reinforce the idea to the kid that our stories aren’t interesting or important on their own, which is why they need so much outside assistance. Instead, prepare these kids throughout the year by telling them amazing stories of the Jewish people, not only from Torah, but of great Jews throughout history, particularly modern Israeli history. Get them excited to be Jewish, and connected to more than just a few short days out of the year.

Question 3: How are you going to say “Next year in Jerusalem” at the end of the Seder with any seriousness?

This question has been bothering me for years, ever since I got involved in Israel advocacy. How on Earth can some Jewish people say, “Next year in Jerusalem” at the end of the Passover Seder with any credibility? They go five, ten, fifteen, even twenty years without hopping on a plane to visit (fun-fact: Jerusalem is not hard to get to, and open for Jews to visit). They balk at the idea of Aliyah, preferring their Cost-Co’s and two car garages to actualizing the dream that Jews have prayed for every day for almost 2000 years. They protest with IfNotNow, disrupting Birthright trips and ruining them for dozens of people. Worst of all, they call for Jerusalem to be divided, and given away to people who openly claim to want us gone from the country, and wouldn’t hesitate to murder every last Jew to make that happen. How can these people seriously say with any honesty, “Next year in Jerusalem”? I understand that there are extenuating circumstances, like cost of travel or elderly relatives that prevent a person from making Aliyah, but lets be real, they apply to the minority of Jews in America and Europe, particularly given the number of free or subsidized trips available all over the place. The fact of the matter is, if you truly want to spend any part of “next year in Jerusalem”, it isn’t that hard to get here. Your great-great grandparents would have given anything for the opportunity.

Question 4: What are you doing to take Pesach with you through the rest of the year?

Contrary to popular belief, the Pesach Seder is not just a time to eat dry crackers and get drunk on religiously mandated cups of wine. Pesach is the time at which we transmit our story to the next generation. The story of the Exodus from Egypt is the unifying story shared by all Jews and is meant to ensure that the Jewish people continue to stay as one people. The Exodus eventually led to us becoming Jewish as we know it today, at the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. We were described at that moment as being “one nation, with one heart” but unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. What can be done about it? Pesach should be the time when we prepare ourselves to increase in our Jewish pride and connection to heritage during the rest of the year. It is a time when we should commit to teach our children more about why it matters to be Jewish. Jews in the Diaspora should instill in their children a connection with Israel, at least by teaching them about the country, but even better, by bringing them here. Jews in Israel need to teach their children as well, about the experiences and struggles that our people had to go through before finally being able to come home to our land. If we don’t make proper use of this special time of the year, we will be wasting a precious opportunity to ensure the unity and continuation of the Jewish people. The current “children of Israel” need to be taught these things if we want their children to remain, “children of Israel”.

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