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Passover is All About Connecting

Tuesday, 30 April, 2019 - 5:17 pm

Rabbi Newman's Message in the Jewish Chronicle 2019

Passover is All About Connecting

The Seder of Passover is the most widespread practice in the Jewish community worldwide. According to the Pew Research survey 93% of families in Israel and 70% of families in the United States come together for the Seder meal. The Haggadah is the book widely used to guide the folks through the evening. One of my highlights is the passage about the four sons. And at the same time it is perplexing. I understand the wise, simple and even the mischievous son but the one that ‘does not know to ask’ who is he?  If it was knowledge alone that he lacked it would have been covered with the simple son. Why is there a distinction?


Several incidents that have happened recently bring it to light. It happened on a Shabbat a while back. I was walking home with my lawyer friend in front of a church in our area. We were having an animated talk and not paying a lot of attention to our surroundings when we heard a loud shout from a passing pickup truck. As we looked up we saw a teenager on the passenger side hurling a cup full of soda and ice that landed squarely on both of us. I was startled, but my lawyer friend, with his keen eye immediately looked at the back of the truck and picked up the license plate number. We both agreed that we had to pursue this incident through the local police department. What we found out even surprised me. The police tracked the driver of the pickup truck who took no blame but informed them who the passenger was. The next call went to the parent of the teenager. The mom answered the phone and she shouted at her son if he had thrown a cup of soda at two Jewish people who were walking in front of the church. When he answered in the affirmative she shouted back, ‘Don’t you know that you are Jewish?’ The teenager was underage so the authorities called him in and gave a scare that I hope he remembers to this day. But the question that begs to be asked is, how could a Jewish teenager do this?  He could not have mistaken me walking on Shabbat as anything but Jewish – no mistaken identity there. And then the same question begs to be asked about a recent incident in Newport Beach at which a picture was taken of some high schoolers standing by a cup formation in the shape of a swastika and smiling. One of those teenagers was Jewish and his mother was appalled when she discovered that he was involved.

How does this happen? These teenagers may have known that they were Jewish but may not have had any further knowledge of Judaism and, even more so, did not connect with their Jewish heritage.  The key word in the ‘son who does not know‘ is know or ‘Daat’ which in Hebrew relates to connecting. ‘Daat’ is the link bridge between knowledge and developing a connection with the ideas through taking action. That life connection is what is missing in many of our youth today.

Fast forward; just last week the Hebrew Academy celebrated its 50th year since its founding with a dinner at the Four Seasons. During the dinner we had special representatives of the various years at the Academy. The several hundred people who attended were gratified to hear how the students now in their forties and fifties were connected with and leaders in their Jewish communities. To top off the evening the 3rd grade choir sang a song that is highlighted by the lines “I’m a Jew and I’m proud and I’ll sing it out loud for that is what I will always be. “

Contrast the two and you can discern the stark difference. The above scenarios would not have been possible with youth who connect and live with the pride of the richness of their heritage. Education is not only acquiring the knowledge but also making the connection with the community and feeling proud of who you are and who you represent.

We have an opportunity at the Seder to engage the person who has not fully developed that connection and ignite the spark by connecting with the community with the many opportunities that are offered. Let’s start with the eating of the Matzah which is referred to as the ‘bread of faith’ and continue the practice of sitting around together not only once a year but getting involved in Jewish life. My wish is that next year in Jerusalem you will recite the four sons but wonder why there are four when all you have around you is the wise one fully connected to his people and community.

Happy Passover!

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