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eJudaism: The Passover Multiverse (Part 2/4)

04/12/2022 04:01:37 PM


Michael Greenfield

Sure, you might aspire to be the Wise Child or relish the idea that you're the Wicked Child. We're all convinced that we're definitely not the Simple Child, but we have met them. Spoiler alert? You're all four.

Part 2: We're going to need more children.

If you're thinking, Hey - didn't he leave out one Child?, you can safely rule out the possibility of being the Child Who Has No Ability to Inquire. That's not just good news for you, it also means you're exactly who I was looking for.

Storytellers Needed: Previous experience a plus, work from home, set your own hour(s), must be comfortable with fractured identities and the multiverse, full compensation and benefits package included.

Haggadah Page 1: Lean on a pillow as a symbol of our freedom. Page 8: This is the bread of our affliction. This year we are servants here, but next year we hope to be free people in the land of Israel. Page 25: God brought us from slavery to freedom and from servitude to redemption.

I'll share a secret: the rabbis are toying with us. The Haggadah is a series of puzzles and clues taking us back and forth between freedom and slavery until we end up in exactly the same spot where we began on a Möbius strip of matzah but upside-down and facing the wrong direction. Are we free or enslaved? Yes. Which of the four children are we? Again, yes. We, like Whitman, contain multitudes.

This is child's play for the rabbis. The Torah with its commandment to observe the Passover and tell the story of the Exodus was written, according to Midrash, with black fire on white fire 2000 years before the Creation. The rabbis care nothing for time and space. What they care about is that we stay, all of us, in conversation with each of the versions of ourselves who co-exist simultaneously and who need to learn with and from each other what it means to enact transformation in order to unite the fractured parts of ourselves. In doing so, we transform the bread of affliction - through storytelling and celebration - into the bread of redemption.

The magic trick the rabbis are playing on us is getting us to inhabit not just one point at a time on that Möbius strip, but every point all at once. Because isn't it true that we are all four children? Aren't we both free and enslaved? Aren't we telling our children or each other the story of the Exodus because we need to hear it? Yes and yes and yes. Rabbi Simcha Bunim carried one slip of paper in each pocket with words from the Talmud. One read, For me the world was created. The other, I am but dust and ashes. Both are true, but the sweet spot is the middle, of course, and in the liminal space of the Seder, we can be all things at once, past, present and future, the storytellers who are narrating our own liberation from the narrow confines of slavery. And, in doing that, we can teach our children to do the same.


Happy National Poetry Month:

Sun, May 26 2024 18 Iyyar 5784