As Passover is representative of new beginnings, it can also be time for many of us to be passed the proverbial baton. What do I mean? I mean that for many in my generation, the time has finally come this Pesah to take on the seder hosting responsibilities from our parents or grandparents. We are approaching or have arrived at middle age, we are established enough, our children are growing up and becoming self-sufficient, we have the homes or spaces to accommodate, and we have the energy our parents once had to put on the “production” that is a Passover seder. It’s simply time to take over. It’s time to invite our parents and grandparents as guests— for us to honor their fulfillment of V’higaddita L'vincha, the mitzvah of re-telling the Passover story. It is now our turn l’hagid –to tell.
And now, the complicated part. We are not our parents. We live in different times, with different familial realities and challenges, personal struggles, and are embracing our own evolved and individualized journeys through Judaism and Jewish life. Today many more of us may be divorced, blended, intermarried, same-sex partnered, post denominational, and the list goes on. And, as with nearly every other aspect of our 21st century lives, we hold a desire to have a seder that reflects our earned individuality and meets our diverse needs for meaningful connection.
So how do we meld the two? How do we tell a story that speaks to our children, one that frames their perceptions of struggles and successes, yet is still worthy of our parents’ approval? Because let's face it, no matter how old we get, we still desire parental approval.
In “The Art of Jewish Living,” by Dr. Ron Wolfson, he describes perfectly that the Passover Seder is like a play in four acts, with each act following the same structure: (1) a question, (2) a response, and (3) praise to God. The wisdom of the Hagaddah is that it is really four unique modalities of telling the story. If there was ever a Jewish ritual or festival designed to meet a variety of needs, it would be Passover and the Pesah Seder.
It is built brilliantly into both the structure itself and the story, to be malleable, customized. It is a story of freedom and nation-building. And while we are commanded to perform the mitzvah of telling the Exodus experience; we are not regimented in how we tell the story. It’s Truth with a capital “T” in the philosophical sense, provides us the freedom, if you will, to both invent and preserve the telling over the course of its four separate acts. Certainly this vastly improves our odds of getting it right for both our parents and grandparents and ourselves!
And so, this Pesah, I challenge each of us to find those points of meaningful connection and to discover for ourselves the beauty and possibility that the mitzvah of Passover is not just V’higaddita l’vincha, it’s not just to tell it to your children, but also V’higaddita l’horecha, it’s to tell it to your parents.