Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Suppose there weren't four children - A Pesach Message

Suppose there never were four siblings who just happened to be different despite the parents’ best efforts to love each equally. Suppose it was four different parents. Suppose it was the parent who knew how to stimulate a child to the extent that they would stay rapt even while she explained the technicalities of what you can and can’t eat after the Afikomen. And there was the parent who would set the teeth of their child on edge, and the child wanted nothing to do with any of it. Then there was the parent who didn’t know so much, but could convey the singularly essential message that the Pesach story - ‘because of this that the Holy Blessed One did for me.’ Or finally the parent who, perhaps, was just too busy to stimulate any enquiry from the child at all.


Or maybe it’s the same child and the same parent and the Haggadah documents just different days, different moments. There are moments, in parenting, when I stimulate and moments, in parenting, when I push away - and the difference is less some objective difference between the subjects of my storytelling, and more my own ability to become share these narratives with grace and passion.


The question is - how do we tell our stories? Do we do so with the personal twist the Hagadah demands (‘Everyone is obliged to see themselves as if they themselves have left Egypt.’) Do we snap our way through a narrative, setting the teeth of those we encounter on edge?


It’s not really a question about Seder night where most of us can put on a good show for one night in a year. How do we talk about Judaism when there is no script? Do we turn those around us into Wise Children or Ones Who Do Not Know How to Ask? How do we talk about Judaism in the immediate aftermath of the French supermarket attacks, or the Israeli elections?


It’s not really a question about parenting. We are constantly engaging with those around us, tweaking and shaping how they see Judaism through the way in which we present ourselves and tell our stories; the non-Jewish work colleague, the office cleaner who may well come from some other ethnic minority, even the person we sit next to in Shul. Every story we tell shapes those around us – even when we don’t imagine we are telling a story at all.


Maybe there are primordially destined wise, wicked, simple and dumb members of the human race, but we make a grave error if we forget our own ability to shape those around us by our own behaviour; especially when it comes to the way those around us see Judaism, especially at this time of year. Tell our stories well.


A joyous and Kosher Pesach to all


Rabbi Jeremy


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