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Partly Cloudy,70°
Monday, September 22, 2014
Passover message
Celebrating the ‘children’s holiday’
By Rabbi Nochem Teneboim
Rabbi Nochem Teneboim, Chabad of Hewlett.

There’s a story that a group of survivors from one of the camps got together for their first Seder after the Holocaust. Everything went well; there was plenty of food, wine, and matzah available to them. They gladly, again, celebrated “freedom.” But then they got to the point in the Haggadah where the children ask the four famous questions to their parents. And there were no kids, no parents, no family — just a group of survivors. They all started to cry. They cried for the children they lost and for their parents that were murdered. They were about to skip this section and move on to the next paragraph in the Haggadah, when one particular survivor stood up in a shaky voice and shouted, “We are not kids, we have no relatives that are kids, but on Pesach we are all children, G-d’s children.” They all started to recite the “Ma Nishtanah” while crying.

Passover is known as very family oriented holiday. The traditional Passover food fits perfectly with the magical family atmosphere. It is a holiday that is difficult to celebrate without the warmth of a family. If we look however carefully at the original source in the Torah regarding the mitzvah of the Seder, it is clear that the Seder revolves around children. The word “Haggadah” comes from the commandment “You should tell your son” to tell the story of the exodus to the children. The Seder is a method to pass the message of Judaism and our traditions to the next generation. This makes the Seder a very important time to focus on our children. But there may be another aspect to the “children’s” holiday.

I recently have been preparing groups of children for their bar mitzvah and have observed something that we as adults should learn from them — the very same children that many complain “that the children today are so terrible …” But I have found so much good in their childish excitement: Their open minds ready to really understand things, their authentic sincerity, and their curiosity. It is true that Passover is a holiday for the children, but not only children in age.

Passover is the holiday that is supposed to make us the children — with the same excitement to eat the matzah (If you don’t have Shmurah Matzah please contact me to get some!), with the same sincerity to explore the story of the exodus, and the same sincerity to truly experience and connect to our beautiful heritage (with four cups of wine or grape juice), and with the “childish” curiosity to understand the deeper meaning of the our customs. With love and optimism we sing joyous Jewish songs to connect to G-d and to ourselves, and then we can ease our cynicism because on Passover we are all children, G-d’s children. Happy Pesach “kids”! A happy and kosher Passover to all!

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