The Four Mourning Children
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The Four Mourning Children
There they were at the Seder table, as they always are. Between the first cup and the second cup, right in the middle of the telling of the tale, they made their appearance, right on schedule. First was the wise child, the one who seems to have all the answers; sober, sensible and responsible in everything he does. “We knew the end was coming,” said the wise child. “Mom had a long life, a good life. Her time had come. We wouldn’t have wanted her to suffer. To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”
Next to the wise child sat the wicked child – the rasha, we call him, a word which could just as easily be translated “the angry one, the one who is rebellious, defiant, alienated.” The rashawas full of emotions that made everyone else at the table uncomfortable. “I’m furious,” he says. “I want to smash something or tear someone apart. How could my wife get cancer at her age? Young women aren’t supposed to die.” It’s no good putting your arm around therasha. He takes offense if you try to console him. Rage and resentment radiate from him like an open flame – it is hard to be close to him.
A little ways away sits the simple child, overcome by grief. Her throat aches; tears spill from her eyes; she feels lost and alone. “I miss my daddy,” she says. “I loved him. I need him.”
And over in a corner is the one too devastated to say anything at all. The unthinkable has happened to her. She’s in shock. She walks around in a kind of daze. Half the time she doesn’t know where she is, or what she’s doing. She can barely force herself to get out of bed. Sometimes she stays there all day long.
Four children at the Passover table – four human responses to the death of someone we love. One has found some peace; one, like Amitai Etzioni, is angry; one simply grieves and yearns; one, suffering unbearable loss, has nothing to say. Each year, at Pesach, we revisit them in the Haggadah. Each year, all four are invited to our Seder. All of them are welcome. All of them are honored. We don’t try to change them. We don’t try to move them along or force them to progress. We don’t try to make the other three into the wise child. They all remain themselves.
If the Seder were a lecture hall it would deliver facts and answers, resolving all doubt and confusion. If the Seder were a hospital it would dispense bandages and medicine, promising to take away pain. The Seder is neither of these. It’s a conversation. It’s a place for questions and stories, for open doors and open-ended discussions. If you come to the Seder table angry or sad or quiet nobody will force you to be different. You’re welcomed into the circle as you are. There’s hot chicken soup with matzah balls; there is singing; there are rituals and traditions; you are with family.
Tonight we drink four cups of wine. Why four? Some say the cups represent our matriarchs—Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah—whose virtue caused God to liberate us from slavery. Another interpretation is that the cups represent the Four Worlds: physicality, emotions, thought, and essence. Still a third interpretation is that the cups represent the four promises of liberation God makes in the Torah: I will bring you...
What makes this night different from all [other] nights?
1) On all nights we need not dip even once, on this night we do so twice?
2) On all nights we eat chametz or matzah, and on this night only matzah?
3) On all nights we eat any kind of vegetables, and on this night maror?
4) On all nights we eat sitting upright or reclining, and on this night we all...
EVERY JEWISH FAMILY produces a unique version of the Passover seder—the big ritual meal of traditional foods, served after and amid liturgy, storytelling, and song. We’re all surprised at each other’s customs: You eat lamb? You don’t sing “Chad Gad Ya”? And yet, virtually every seder does share a few common elements. Matzoh crumbs all over the floor. Wine stains on the tablecloth. A seder plate containing...
Child labor in cocoa fields has been documented in the following countries: Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, (leading supplier, accounting for around 40% of production) Guinea and Nigeria.
Hundreds of thousands of children work in cocoa fields, and many of them are exposed to hazardous conditions, where they:
- Spray pesticides and apply fertilizers without protective gear
- Use sharp tools, like...
On this night we retrace our steps from then to now, reclaiming years of desert wandering.
On this night we ask questions, ancient and new, speaking of servitude and liberation, service and joy.
On this night we welcome each soul, sharing stories of courage, strength, and faith.
On this night we open doors long closed, lifting our voices in songs of praise.
On this night we renew ancient...
(1) How big of a problem is this?
According to the U.S. department of state, there are over 12 million slaves around the world.
(2) What is being done about the problem?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assists victims of trafficking in the United States by funding service programs and through public information campaigns.
(3) Why isn't more being done?
Why is there no orange on our Seder plate?
In the early 1980s, while speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Susannah Heschel was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate). Heschel felt that to...
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MY MUM BROUGHT LIGHT
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And it stung, nothing serious but,
My mum brought light
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Full of sniping and cruel words, it could have been serious but,
My mum brought light
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At the time I thought it was serious, but
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There they were at the Seder table, as they always are. Between the first cup and the second cup, right in the middle of the telling of the tale, they made their appearance, right on schedule. First was the wise child, the one who seems to have all the answers; sober, sensible and responsible in everything he does. “We knew the end was coming,” said the wise child. “Mom had a long life, a good life. Her time had...