The Four Children - A Marxist Approach
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The Four Children - A Marxist Approach
At Passover each year, we read the story of our ancestors’ pursuit of liberation from oppression. When confronting this history, how do we answer our children or our contacts when they ask us how to pursue justice in our time?
WHAT DOES THE REVOLUTIONARY CHILD ASK?
“The Torah tells me, ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue,’ but how can I pursue justice?”
Empower him always to seek pathways to advocate for the vulnerable. As Proverbs teaches, “Speak up for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.”
Give him readings, invite him to protests and public speeches, and encourage him to learn and to build the revolutionary organization.
WHAT DOES THE SKEPTICAL CHILD ASK?
“How can I solve problems of such enormity?”
Encourage her by explaining that she need not solve the problems, she must only do what she is capable of doing. As we read in Pirke Avot, “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
Show her the long history of class struggle, the consistency of the working class rising up against the capitalist class and the few examples of success. Let her read about the Russian revolution and see the most backwards capitalist country in its time turn into the most progressive in just a few weeks of socialism. These examples are our guide.
WHAT DOES THE INDIFFERENT CHILD SAY?
“It’s not my responsibility.”
Persuade him that responsibility cannot be shirked. As Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “The opposite of good is not evil, the opposite of good is indifference. In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
Show how capitalism is destroying the earth so that none of us can live on it. Show how crisis affects people of all classes, not just the most oppressed. Finally, show how the failure to build leadership leads to confusion at best, and bloody reaction at worst.
AND THE UNINFORMED CHILD WHO DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO ASK...
Prompt her to see herself as an inheritor of our people’s legacy. As it says in Deuteronomy, “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Tell her about the infinite possibilities of socialism, the promises of the transitional program, and the joyous future we can build under socialism.
This is a modern interpretation of an ancient standard, which is part and parcel of the Seder: the Four Children. By reading and discussing the Four Children, and then responding to it through modern themes, we can come to an understanding of who we are and our relation to the our Children. The source of this section are four verses from the Tanakh which briefly mention children asking, or being told about, the Exodus...
Traditionally, The Four Sons/Daughters include a wise one, a wicked (or rebellious) one, a simple one and one who does not even know enough to ask. Each of the first three ask questions about the Seder, essentially "Explain all this to me - what are my responsibilities?" "What has all this nonsense you are babbling about got to do with me?" and "What IS all this anyway?" while the fourth is silent - requiring the adults...
1. What do you consider your “promised land,” or heaven on earth?
2. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is “Mitzraim,” which literally means “narrow place.” What is one way that you wish for our society to be more open?
3. Moses is considered one of the greatest leaders in our history — he is described as being smart, courageous, selfless and kind. Which of today’s leaders inspires you in a...
Is there really any reason for a sprig of parsley to be on the Seder Table? What is the connection between karpas and the Jewish People leaving Egypt?
Winter, with its bleak landscape and cold, short days, can lead to gloom and despondency.
In contrast, spring breeds hope. Seeds that have been frozen in the earth haven't died, and in the spring they re-awaken. Even when all is cold and dark,...
We sanctify the name of God and proclaim the holiness of this festival of Passover. With a blessing over wine, we lift our wine, our symbol of joy; let us welcome the festival of Passover.
In unison, we say…
Our God and God of our ancestors, we thank You for enabling us to gather in friendship, to observe the Festival of Freedom. Just as for many centuries the Passover Seder has brought together families...
The karpas, the green vegetable, is the first part of the seder that makes this night different from all other nights. So far, the first glass of wine and the hand washing, though significant, do not serve to mark any sort of difference; they are regular parts of meals. The karpas, however, is not. As a night...
It’s eight o’clock on a festive eve
The Haggadah sons shuffle past
They are wise, and wicked, and simpleton And one who doesn’t know how to ask
The wise son says “Dad, wontcha call on me.” I know the Torah and the codes
They’re good and they’re sweet
And I know ‘em complete
The others might as well take a doze. La-di-die-diddy-die. . .
Sing us a song you’re...
The central imperative of the Seder is to tell the story. The Bible instructs: “ You shall tell your child on that day, saying: ‘This is because of what Adonai did for me when I came out of Egypt.' ” (Exodus 13:8) We relate the story of our ancestors to regain the memories as our own. Elie Weisel writes: God created man because He loves stories. We each have a story to tell — a story of enslavement, struggle,...
As we sit here as free men and women, it is so easy for us to forget the hardships that our ancestors had to overcome for our freedom. The exodus from servile Egypt to liberated Israel is viewed as the most pivotal event in Jewish history. So why do we lean on Pesach?
It was the custom of ancient royalty to recline on the left for two reasons:
a) Food is normally held in the right hand. Leaning toward the...
The bitter herbs serve to remind us of how the Egyptians embittered the lives of the Israelites in servitude. When we eat the bitter herbs, we share in that bitterness of oppression. We must remember that slavery still exists all across the globe. When you go to the grocery store, where does your food come from? Who picked the sugar cane for your cookie,
or the coffee bean for your morning coffee? We are...
More Clips from Sebastian Greenholtz
Many Jews use the Passover seder to discuss the state of Israel and how the brave pioneers took over the land. But here are two stories of a different kind of modern day exodus, painting a very different picture of those events.
From “Justice and Only Justice”
by Naim Ateek
Our town was occupied on May 12, 1948. (The State of Israel was proclaimed two days...
When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one
But the union makes us strong
Solidarity forever, Solidarity forever, Solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong!
Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
"Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision."
—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1970