I had the most startling answer from a student Monday. In answer to the question What exemplifies “freedom” to you? Dawn answered (name changed): the Hurricane! Woah! I do get it: freedom from the demands and the routines. This kid sheltered in the synagogue’s social hall during Sandy for power, heat, company and internet, playing and doing volunteer work for a couple of weeks. Here’s a thought: could we be overscheduling and overpressuring our kids? Passover’s so enriched by our children at the table, asking questions, searching for the hidden, maybe acting out dramas, singing “dayenu” (it would have been enough!). And here’s a child reminding us to give them back the freedom of childhood. Children are magic. This week’s haftarah contains some of the most beautiful verses from the prophet Malachi (3:23-24): Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet… to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents. No wonder these verses are always read on the Shabbat before Passover! Not only is Elijah redemption man on Passover, our redemption story, but redeeming will come with the uniting of parents and children! Children: keeping our eyes tuned to wonder and idealism, to where we come from and the future we are headed to. And there is always that child in us, a part of us. My favorite musical setting of Bayom hahu (the Day will Come) is by Lisa Silverstein and Pete Tobias, and it includes these lyrics:
A day will dawn in the time to come,
a day when God’s name shall be One,
all war and suffering shall be through,
when that day comes Bayom hahu;
Bayom hahu, and on that day, I will wipe all tears away;
Sorrow and pain will all be through,
when that day comes Bayom hahu;
Let justice and righteousness flow like a stream,
the old and the young will see visions and dreams,
and what we dream shall yet come true,
when that day comes: Baym hahu;…..
The spear will break and the chariot burn,
the hearts of the parents to children will turn,
children and parents will all turn to You,
when that day comes, Bayom hahu..
So in a way, it is in our relationship with our children that Elijah visits our seder and holds the promise of redemption of the world. They are the SEEDS of redemption and a bright future – teach them well and love them, and make a safe place for them, and they will teach and love their children and perhaps this broken world can be fixed. And we can taste this promise at the seder.
At the seder we taste slavery (bitter herbs) and perhaps the charoset is a taste of love and redemption, rather than of bricks:under the apple trees the women of exodus seduced their husbands into having children, like Moses and Miriam who would redeem us. And speaking of seduction under the apple tree, we read song of songs on Pesach! I would like to offer that Matzah is not so much the taste of slavery as the taste of seeds, and an guarding of their magical properties of sprouting feeding us. The technology of fermentation has been around at least from ancient Egypt, (they brewed beer). This technology, like fire, is a double edged sword: fermentation flavors, rises bread and preserves, but fermentation also rots, causes disease and wasting. At springtime we must carefully guard our new seeds – if they rot they cannot sprout and feed us. We must use up all our old seed, and begin to guard the new, keeping it dry. This bread of pure seed, guarded from water, and therefore rotting is what we make our bread/matzah of at the start of spring. In seed is the promise of spring and of our nourishment. As we refrain from eating risen, fermented foods = we can remember that we are fed from the magic of seeds. And loved under apple trees, planted from seeds. An in our souls, the magic of children. Zissen Pesach: a sweet Passover to all.