These “Four Questions of Mental Health” are from JF&CS Chaverim Shel Shalom Haggadah. Chaverim Shel Shalom is a social group for Jewish adults living with psychiatric conditions.

What is oppressing us? Is it self-imposed, such as a lack of achievement, or externally imposed, such as parents or political current events that are out of our control, or both of these things together?

How can this seder help us and heal us?

How can we take care of ourselves and maintain a positive cycle?

If we were really serious about our healing, why don’t we tell the story of our deliverance every night, not just on Passover?

On this seder night, we recognize that, as Jews with psychiatric conditions, we have a great deal to teach our community. Because we know about the unpredictability and pain of having a chronic illness, we are compassionate toward others. Because we know what it is to be labeled as “different” and “defective” by those who don’t even know us as human beings, we are the contemporary embodiment of all Jewish history. Because we have experienced oppression and persecution firsthand, we each feel that we, personally, are struggling to leave Egypt behind us every day. In this way, we are mindful of that way we pray each morning, “Moses said to the people: remember this day, in which you came out of Egypt, out of a house of slavery; for by a strong hand Adonai brought you out of this place; no leavened bread shall be eaten.”

Because we have learned from each other and from sensitive caregivers about how to care for ourselves, we respond to the needs of others who are less fortunate than we are who don’t know how to articulate their suffering.

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors were enslaved by the Egyptians. Today some of us find ourselves enslaved by the chains that bind our minds and our emotions. As we sit around the seder table with family and friends, sharing the story of our ancestors, we can be healed to some extent through our communal spirituality.

Written by Jewish Family & Children’s Service for JewishBoston, March 2018.

haggadah Section: Commentary / Readings