Passover is just around the corner. Many of us have begun to clean our homes and prepare food for the approaching holiday. Every year, though we go through the same order, the same seder, the meaning of each step in the process is different because we are different. The people around us are different, and our lives are different –
our experience of mitzrayim (Egypt) is different: physical tzuris, grief, stress, or other challenges we have faced;
our questions are different;
the plagues we see in the world are different;
and our dayenus are different.
This year the four children are also different for me, as a parent and as a camp director. For together we are working to build a big enough table that all children can sit at it: the wise, the rebellious, the simple, and the otherwise absent. Former Chief Rabbi of England, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, invites us to find strength in our diversity:
“The four children are a vignette of the Jewish people. One asks because he wants to hear the answer. A second asks because he doesnot want to hear the answer. A third asks because he does not understand. The fourth does not ask because he doesn’t understand that he doesn’t understand. Ours has never been a monolithic people.
Yet there is a message of hope in this family portrait. Though they disagree, they sit around the same table, telling the same story. Though they differ, they stay together. They are part of a single family. Even the rebel is there, although part of him does not want to be. This too is who we are.
The Jewish people is an extended family. We argue, we differ, there are times when we are deeply divided. Yet we are part of the same story. We share the same memories. At difficult times we can count on one another. We feel one another’s pain. Out of this multiplicity of voices comes something none of us could achieve alone. Sitting next to the wise child, the rebel is not fated to remain a rebel. Sitting next to the rebel, the wise child may share his wisdom rather than keep it to himself. The one who cannot ask will in time learn how. The simple child will learn complexity. The wise child will learn simplicity. Each draws strength from the others, as we draw strength from belonging to a people.”
And I would add – each draws strength from the others, as we draw strength from belonging to and building a community. As we gather around our seder tables this year, may we find space in our homes and our hearts to invite and engage all four types of people – in our families, in ourselves, and in the important endeavor of building a camp community that serves all our children.
Happy Passover! Chag Kasher v’Sameach
-Sarah Shulman, Camp Director, Camp Ramah in Northern California
Yeminite Charoset: add figs, dates, and apricots
Syrian Charoset: add ginger or ginger juice
Greek Charoset: add cherry preserves and cayenne pepper
Brazilian Charoset: add avocado or banana
And for a kid’s all time favorite charoset: add chocolate chips!