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.
[Begin taking turns reading. Each person is invited to read a grouped set of lines - or to pass.]
It is said, there is nothing new under the sun, yet nothing remains the same. Against the backdrop of eternity the earth displays an ever-changing countenance. The sun rises and the sun sets, yet each day and each season is fresh and new.
Slowly, one season emerges from another.
The traditional haggadah speaks of Ten Plagues by which God accomplished our liberation from Egypt. Tonight, we enumerate plagues of psychiatric conditions, which hinder our sense of wholeness, health, and freedom. For each one, our cup of joy is diminished by one drop:
The Wise Child
(Enters and sits near the leader. He is eager and earnest.)
"Tateh, teach me everything about Pesach...all the laws, the customs, the rituals...everything! I want to learn it all!"
The Wicked Child
(Enters and Stands, glaring at the leader. He is angry and full of contempt.)
"Dachau, Mumbai, terrorism,...
The next item on our plate is the karpas: the vegetable representing spring. Many families use a green leafy vegetable because the green makes people think about freshness, coming alive, being healthy- all the wonderful things that go along with freedom. But when families do not have enough resources they can't always get fresh fruits and vegetables. When our family lived in Eastern Europe it was also...
Imagine you are standing on the bank of the sea of reeds and you look forward and all you see is water. Suddenly, you look behind you and you see the Egyptian army quickly approaching you. The Israelites pled to Moses and Moses spoke to God. God told Moses, raise your staff over the water and I will split the seas. So Moses did, and nothing happened.
Suddenly a man named Nachshon started walking into the water. ...
Break the middle matzah on the matzah plate.
We break the matzah and hide one part (the Aﬁkomen). We recognize that liberation is made by imperfect people, broken, fragmented — so don’t be waiting until you are totally pure, holy, spiritually centered, and psychologically healthy to get involved in tikkun (the healing and repair of the world). It will be imperfect people, wounded...
The answers to the first three questions are drawn from Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010). Excerpts are cited with “NJC” and the page number.
Why does America have the highest incarceration rate of any developed nation in the world?
Many factors have...
We start the seder by noticing what is out of the ordinary and then investigating its meaning further. How is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, we depend on the exploitation of invisible others for our food, clothing, homes, and more. Tonight, we listen to the stories of those who suffer to create the goods we use. We commit to working toward the human rights of all workers....
no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.
you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.
no one would leave home unless home chased you, fire under feet, hot blood in your belly.
it's not something you ever thought about doing, and so when you did - you carried the anthem under your breath, waiting until the airport toilet to tear up the passport and swallow,...
A word about God: everyone has his or her own understanding of what God is. For some people, there is no God, while for others, God is an integral part of their lives. While we may not agree on a singular concept of God, we share a common desire for goodness to prevail in the world. And this is the meaning of tonight: freedom winning out over slavery, good prevailing over evil.
Please consider the source of...
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...
If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals . . . We are all human...
THESE WORDS ARE DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO DIED
Because they had no love and felt alone in the world
Because they were afraid to be alone and tried to stick it out
Because they could not ask
Because they were shunned
Because they were sick and their bodies could not resist the disease
Because they played it safe
Because they had no connection
Because they had...
More Clips from Paul Silk
MY MUM BROUGHT LIGHT
It was bleeding,
And it stung, nothing serious but,
My mum brought light
It was a painful day
Full of sniping and cruel words, it could have been serious but,
My mum brought light
I’d failed, I tried my hardest and it wasn’t enough
At the time I thought it was serious, but
My mum brought light
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...