A Midrash for Teens
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A Midrash for Teens
We Won't Get Fooled Again: Helping Teens Identify Pharaoh
A boy is tricked into being part of a game with other boys only to find out that he is the target of mockery and abuse. A girl is happy to be included as a "friend" at a lunch table until she finds it was only a ploy to get back at another girl. A boy is "hit on" as part of a practical joke. A girl is lured into an unwelcomed physical encounter. Being fooled is one of the many challenges that teens face on a daily basis. The challenge is new - and old:Rabbi Shalom Dov Bear, a 19th century Chassidic sage, told his son: There are three things you need to know to be a man: don't fool yourself, don't fool others, and don't allow yourself to be fooled by others. And do it all without trying to impress anyone. In preparation for Passover, we've been thinking about the "don't allow yourself to be fooled by others."
Today, teens see a world where it is normal to fool people. It seems as if each week, a celebrity, athlete, or politician who has lied to the public admits their shame. TV shows and videos based on pranks form the core of the comedy diet. And every 79 seconds a thief will try to open a bank account with a stolen identity.What are the roots of fraud? According to Midrash, the slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt began with being fooled. In the Book of Exodus we read: "And the Egyptians made the children of Israel work vigorously." What is the Hebrew word for vigorously? Parech. In Hebrew, Parech can also mean "peh rach" a "soft mouth" meaning "gentle speech" How did the Egyptians make the Hebrews work with "gentle speech?" Slavery began with Pharaoh saying: "I beg of you, as a special favor, work alongside me today." Pharaoh picked up a basket and shovel and everyone followed him But when it grew dark, he said to his men, "count up the bricks." When they finished he said to the Hebrews: "This is the number of bricks that you must make for me everyday." -Sotah 11b; Tanchuma B'haalotecha, 23.According to this Midrash, the Hebrews got taken in by soft words. They were conned, lured, and scammed.How might this Midrash help teens to become discerning adults?It would be pat to say to teens simply, "don't get fooled." But we, as parents, educators, and others who are concerned about teens and their interactions online and off, should look more deeply with them at the challenge that this Midrash poses:
How do we protect ourselves from being fooled without ending up distrusting the entire world?
On Passover, Rabbi Shalom Dov Bear taught, we as a community return to a state of authenticity and humility. Refraining from chametz (leavened bread) and eating matzah is a spiritual practice that helps us notice and distance ourselves from anything that is "puffed up." As teens come of age, they need adult guidance in discerning who they can trust. Teaching them to detect the "puffed up" - those who manipulate others in an effort to assert control, requires helping teens understand the dynamics of power, the attraction to Pharaoh's methods, and the many ways that people can resist, disrupt, and break free.
This year, may we all taste the matzah - the bread of humility - and help the world to embrace an ethic of authenticity, honesty, and freedom.
by Miriam Grossman
May it be your will
Our God and God of our ancestors
that you lead us in peace and direct our steps
and guide us in peace
and support us in just peace
(and in the tearing down of walls,
and in the rising up of peoples),
and cause us to...
– Jen Stein
This year, on the seder plate
instead of the bloodied shank bone
we place a cluster of sweet grapes
which serve as a symbol of fertility,
of new life and abundance.
We choose this, life, and not death:
for before us is set life and death
the blessing and the curse.
Therefore, we choose life
that we may invite...
The first hand-washing of the seder is unusual. The rabbis point out that even a child would wonder at least two things: why do we wash without a blessing and why do we bother to wash when we will not be eating our meal for some time. They suggest that we wash our hands here in order to raise questions. Questions, both of wonder and of despair, are crucial to our time at the seder and, really, our growth as human...
¿Qué hace diferente a esta noche de todas las [demás] noches? ¿Ma nishtaná haláila hazé micól haleilót?
1) En todas las noches no precisamos sumergir ni siquiera una vez, ¡y en esta noche lo hacemos dos veces? ...shebejól haleilót éin ánu matbilín afílu paám eját, haláila hazé shtéi peamím?
2) En todas las noches comemos jametz o matzá, ¡en esta noche solamente matzá? ...shebejól...
Use this piece before singing Hallel and think about what it means to transition from slavery to freedom.
Exodus and Liberation translate many different ways for different communities, religious groups, and individuals. Chief Tom Dostou of the Wabanaki Nation of Massachusetts offers the following prayer in an excerpt from a larger piece describing his journey across his ancestral homeland of “Turtle...
But why is there an orange and a tomato on the seder plate? This is not traditional for Passover.
Tomato - This tomato brings our attention to the oppression and liberation of farmworkers who harvest fruits and vegetables here in the United States. And it reminds of us of our power to help create justice.
A tomato purchased in the United States between November...
Why should we be conscious of the people who we consider strangers?
Why are human beings treated as if they are disposable based on their living circumstances?
Why is it important to reach out to individuals who don’t have the same rights as us?
Despite what we hear about the working conditions, why do we still support the industries?
At a traditional seder, there is a cup of wine left on the table for the prophet Elijah. Toward the end of the night, the door is opened for Elijah, symbolizing that all are welcome at the seder, all can take refuge here.
In this spirit, consider symbolically setting aside a table setting or opening the door to the 60 million refugees and displaced people around the world still waiting to be free — for all...
We will wash our hands twice during our seder: now, with no blessing, to get us ready for the rituals to come; and then again later, we’ll wash again with a blessing, preparing us for the meal.
Too often during our daily lives we don’t stop and take the moment to prepare for whatever it is we’re about to do. Let's pause as we wash our hands to consider what we hope to get out of our evening together.
Leader: We begin with the Passover plate. The four foods on this plate symbolize the four years of Beloit.
Leader: The first item is the bitter herbs.
All: The bitter herbs came from the hot sauce tray.
Leader: The second item is the chocolate Karpas
All: The karpas is some lettuce that we got from the salad bar. It symbolizes...
Scene 1: In the Desert Moses is galloping (skipping on foot while clopping coconuts together to sound like hoofbeats) across the desert. He comes to a burning bush.
Bush: Halt! Who goes there!
Moses: A shrubbery! A talking shrubbery! One that looks nice, but is not too expensive. It is a good shrubbery. I like the laurels...
Together as we wash our hands, they move into the bowl of water, and back out of the water. Why do we do this? Are our hands really getting clean without soap? We won’t be eating for some time, why do we do this so early?
The washing of our hands suggests that we are open to question. One question that is always asked is about hope.
Rick Recht answers in his song:
This is the hope that...
More Clips from Rabbi Daniel Brenner
The Wicked Child
I read the haggadah backwards this year
The sea opens,
the ancient Israelites slide back to Egypt
like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk
Freedom to slavery
That’s the real story
One minute you’re dancing hallelujah,
shaking your hips to the j-j-jangle of the prophetesses’ tambourines,
the next you’re knee deep in brown...
We Won't Get Fooled Again: Helping Teens Identify Pharaoh
A boy is tricked into being part of a game with other boys only to find out that he is the target of mockery and abuse. A girl is happy to be included as a "friend" at a lunch table until she finds it was only a ploy to get back at another girl. A boy is "hit on" as part of a practical joke. A girl is lured into an unwelcomed physical...