The Seder meals are over, the morals of the story linger on.
Tell the story to your children, we are instructed: how the Israelites went down to Egypt, were enslaved and then liberated. Tell the story at the proper time: it is step number five of fourteen parts of the Seder, which translates as “order.” Tell the story as if it happened to you, we are instructed. Elaborate on the story, we are told, the later into the night, the better. `
Children wise and wicked: different world-views of “me” and “us”
Early on in the telling, we find there four kinds of children to whom we may be telling the story: a wise child, a wicked child, a simple child, and a child who does not know how to ask.
The wise child asks, “What are all these laws and observances God commanded you?” And he is taught all the details of Passover observance, down to the very end of the Seder – as if he had actually asked, “What are all these laws and observances God commanded us?” – including himself in the community.
The wicked child asks, “What does all this work mean to you?” In this instance the parent takes the child literally when he says “to you, and responds with a certain harshness because the child has separated himself out of the community.
Lively discussion often surrounds this section, what is called “argument for the sake of heaven,” rather than to prove a point.
What struck me this year is how the text rewards “we” and is harsh with “me.”
The most obvious pandemic lesson brought home to us humans all over the globe, no matter our nation or tribe, is the deep factual reality of “we,” homo sapiens. Covid-19 is a story that is happening to the human species, each and all of us. There is no “as if” in the telling of this pandemic story. And while health outcome disparities by race and ethnicity have been documented for decades, they are front and center now. There is at least some ray of hope this recognition and documentation will drive more equitable access and elimination of bias as we rebuild our civic infrastructure.
Daled amot: the personal space/Zoom rectangle we each occupy? God also occupies.
Rabbi Sue Fendrick wrote a wonderful piece (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/go-ahead-have-a-shvach-seder/) in which she granted “a rabbinic permission – and/or psychological and spiritual authorization” to have “a mediocre, underwhelming, unremarkable, or even kind of pathetic” Seder under the pandemic limitations that govern our lives these days.
She used a term which I had never before encountered: daled amot, which translates as four cubits, the measure of our personal space: the space that we each take up as we keep our six feet (3.81 cubits) from one another. Rabbi Levi Cooper provided some historical background, (https://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Judaism/World-of-the-Sages-The-four-cubits-of-halacha) noting that since the Temple was destroyed, God has dwelled in each individual’s four cubits. This indwelling presence is often spoken of as the Shechinah, the Divine Feminine.
Those little boxes on the Zoom Meeting screen? They are another form of the dalet amot of this pandemic time. Mostly what we see of one another on the screen is our faces. And when we take the opportunity to gaze softly at one another’s faces on the screen, we see how unique, precious, and beautiful each one is. To switch religious contexts, this is namaste: the God in me greets the God in you.
Stay in touch with what is important
May we draw ever more deeply from the well of our own wisdom and our trust in God.
May we forgive ourselves and one another our foolishness.
May we be kind to one another, understanding how truly we are all kin.
May we be good neighbors and well-wishers.
May we be safe and protected from harm as we make our way through the unknowns of the coming days, weeks, and months.
Come as you are continues online, Wednesday April 15, 12-1:00 EDT on Zoom
The imperatives of social distancing invite us to co-create sacred and nourishing online refuges.
Come as you are to share an hour of nondual practice
… open-hearted and fearful,
… determined, weary and bearing gifts
Email me at ______ for the Zoom link.
Banner photo from The Passover Haggadah, illustrated by Raphael Abecassis