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What are you still a slave too?
Pesach is the time to break out of our slavery
In the Haggadah, , barring one reference to Moses repeating something that happened, he appears not at all. Why? Are we not leaving out the most important individual in the whole Exodus?
The answer, I think, lies at the very end of the recital of magid , the long account that precedes the eating part of the Seder. We're usually quite hungry by the time we get to this part, which may be the reason why it's often overlooked...
We begin the final part of magid by saying, "...In very generation a person is obligated to see himself as having himself come out of Egyptian bondage." We need to understand that Passover is not about a redemption long ago, but about the fact that redemption is an ongoing endeavor.
Talking about Moses fixes the Exodus as a point in history. But Passover is not about what was--it's about what is, now. Every year, Passover gives us the power to escape personal bondages of habit and inclination. Every year, Passover teaches us that G‑d can help us redeem others from their prisons, both physical emotional and spiritual. And most of all, we believe that G‑d can and will redeem the world--with our participation--from darkness and conflict, and bring about a world where there is no want, conflict or ignorance.
Talking about Moses also fixes the Exodus as an accomplishment of an extraordinary individual. "Moses can accomplish such things," we're tempted to say, "not me. Who am I to aspire to change existence from patterns entrenched for millennia? I know my shortcomings and Moses' incomparable greatness."
Perhaps this is why the Haggadah doesn't talk about Moses. G‑d alone is the redeemer of the Jewish people and all of humanity. Moses was great because he committed himself, totally, to G‑d's agenda. If we, now, commit ourselves in our own totality, every one of us can be the conduit for G‑ds' transformation of existence from the bondage of all that is dark, changing our world into a realm of light.
In the early 1990s one of the great medical research exercises of modern times took place. It became known as the Nun Study. Some 700 American nuns, all members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in the United States, agreed to allow their records to be accessed by a research team investigating the process of ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease. At the start of the study the participants were aged between 75 and 102.
What gave this study its unusual longitudinal scope is that in 1930 the nuns, then in their twenties, had been asked by the Mother Superior to write a brief autobiographical account of their life and their reasons for entering the convent. These documents were now analysed by the researchers using a specially devised coding system to register, among other things, positive and negative emotions. By annually assessing the nuns’ current state of health, the researchers were able to test whether their emotional state in 1930 had an effect on their health some sixty years later. Because they had all lived a very similar lifestyle during these six decades, they formed an ideal group for testing hypotheses about the relationship between emotional attitudes and health.
The results, published in 2001, were startling. The more positive emotions – contentment, gratitude, happiness, love and hope – the nuns expressed in their autobiographical notes, the more likely they were to be alive and well sixty years later. The difference was as much as seven years in life expectancy. So remarkable was this finding that it has led, since then, to a new field of gratitude research, as well as a deepening understanding of the impact of emotions on physical health.
What medicine now knows about individuals, Moses knew about nations. Gratitude – hakarat ha-tov – is at the heart of what he has to say about the Israelites and their future in the Promised Land. Gratitude had not been their strong point in the desert. They complained about lack of food and water, about the manna and the lack of meat and vegetables, about the dangers they faced from the Egyptians as they were leaving and about the inhabitants of the land they were about to enter. They lacked thankfulness during the difficult times. A greater danger still, said Moses, would be a lack of gratitude during the good times. This is what he warned:
When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery … Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’ (Deut. 8:11-17)
The worst thing that could happen to them, warned Moses, would be that they forgot how they came to the land, how God had promised it to their ancestors, and had taken them from slavery to freedom, sustaining them during the forty years in the wilderness. This was a revolutionary idea: that the nation’s history be engraved on people’s souls, that it was to be re-enacted in the annual cycle of festivals, and that the nation, as a nation, should never attribute its achievements to itself – “my power and the might of my own hand” – but should always ascribe its victories, indeed its very existence, to something higher than itself: to God. This is a dominant theme of Deuteronomy, and it echoes throughout the book time and again.
Since the publication of the Nun Study and the flurry of further research it inspired, we now know of the multiple effects of developing an attitude of gratitude. It improves physical health and immunity against disease. Grateful people are more likely to take regular exercise and go for regular medical check-ups. Thankfulness reduces toxic emotions such as resentment, frustration and regret and makes depression less likely. It helps people avoid over-reacting to negative experiences by seeking revenge. It even tends to make people sleep better. It enhances self-respect, making it less likely that you will envy others for their achievements or success. Grateful people tend to have better relationships. Saying “thank you” enhances friendships and elicits better performance from employees. It is also a major factor in strengthening resilience. One study of Vietnam War Veterans found that those with higher levels of gratitude suffered lower incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Remembering the many things we have to be thankful for helps us survive painful experiences, from losing a job to bereavement.
Jewish prayer is an ongoing seminar in gratitude. Birkot ha-Shachar, ‘the Dawn Blessings’ said at the start of morning prayers each day, form a litany of thanksgiving for life itself: for the human body, the physical world, land to stand on and eyes to see with. The first words we say each morning – Modeh/Modah ani, “I thank you” – mean that we begin each day by giving thanks.
Gratitude also lies behind a fascinating feature of the Amidah. When the leader of prayer repeats the Amidah aloud, we are silent other than for the responses of Kedushah, and saying Amen after each blessing, with one exception. When the leader says the words Modim anachnu lakh, “We give thanks to You,” the congregation says the a parallel passage known as Modim de-Rabbanan. For every other blessing of the Amidah, it is sufficient to assent to the words of the leader by saying Amen. The one exception is Modim, “We give thanks.” Rabbi Elijah Spira (1660–1712) in his work Eliyahu Rabbah,  explains that when it comes to saying thank you, we cannot delegate this away to someone else to do it on our behalf. Thanks has to come directly from us.
Part of the essence of gratitude is that it recognizes that we are not the sole authors of what is good in our lives. The egoist, says Andre Comte-Sponville, “is ungrateful because he doesn’t like to acknowledge his debt to others and gratitude is this acknowledgement.” La Rochefoucald put it more bluntly: “Pride refuses to owe, self-love to pay.” Thankfulness has an inner connection with humility. It recognizes that what we are and what we have is due to others, and above all to God. Comte-Sponville adds: “Those who are incapable of gratitude live in vain; they can never be satisfied, fulfilled or happy: they do not live, they get ready to live, as Seneca puts it.”
Though you don’t have to be religious to be grateful, there is something about belief in God as creator of the universe, shaper of history and author of the laws of life that directs and facilitates our gratitude. It is hard to feel grateful to a universe that came into existence for no reason and is blind to us and our fate. It is precisely our faith in a personal God that gives force and focus to our thanks.
It is no coincidence that the United States, founded by Puritans – Calvinists steeped in the Hebrew Bible – should have a day known as Thanksgiving, recognizing the presence of God in American history. On 3 October 1863, at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving proclamation, thanking God that though the nation was at war with itself, there were still blessings for which both sides could express gratitude: a fruitful harvest, no foreign invasion, and so on. He continued:
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy … I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
What might such a declaration made today – in Israel, or the United States, or indeed anywhere – do to heal the wounds that so divide nations today? Thanksgiving is as important to societies as it is to individuals. It protects us from resentments and the arrogance of power. It reminds us of how dependent we are on others and on a Force greater than ourselves. As with individuals so with nations: thanksgiving is essential to happiness and health.
Four Cups Of Wine
Many people wonder why we drink four cups of wine on Passover. Well there are many reasons. First of all wine is a royal drink that symbolises freedom. So it seems appropriate to drink it on Passover because they became free. Also g-d convinced the Jews that they should leave Egypt using four statements, 1 I shall take you out, 2 I shall rescue you, 3 I shall redeem you, and 4 I shall bring you. That is part of the reason why we drink four cups on passover.
(1) Kiddush, sanctifying the holiday (2) Maggid, the storytelling (3) Birkat HaMazon, completing the Pesach meal; and (4) Hallel, completing the festival Psalms.
The Talmud connects the Four Cups to God's Four Promises to Israel: "Tell the children of Israel: I am Adonai! I will take them out... I will rescue them… I will redeem them… and I will marry them taking them as my people and I will be their God" (Exodus 6:6-7, Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim 10:1).
However, two 16th C. mystic rabbis identify the Four Cups with the Four Matriarchs of Israel. The Maharal of Prague (famous for the legend of Golem) and Rav Isaiah Horowitz of Tsfat explain:
(1) The Cup of Kiddush stands for Sarah who was the mother of a community of converts, believers by choice.
(2) The Cup of Maggid is for Rebecca who knew how to mother both Esav and Jacob, two opposed natures.
(3) The Cup of the Blessing after Eating represents Rachel whose son Joseph provided the whole family of Jacob with bread in a time of great famine.
(4) The Cup of Hallel (Praise) is for Leah who came to realize that the pursuit of the impossible, Jacob's love, must give way to appreciation of what one has. When her fourth child was born, Judah, she praised God: " This time I will thank God " (Genesis 29:35).
The Power of Choice
The Haggadah is asking which of two categories we fall under: Are we here because we are hungry, or are we here because we are needy?
"Need" is defined as "awareness of a lack."
Freedom is not simply something that's "nice" to have; rather it is a necessary factor to our very being. As much as we need food to exist, we need freedom to live. Just as a man starving in the desert scrambles for even the slightest morsel of food, we should be searching for ideas of personal freedom!
Slavery is not just being ordered around by a guard with a whip. Even a life outside of prison can really be a life of horrendous slavery. Not "knowing" what to do with one's life is just as much slavery as not being "allowed" to do it.
Making poor choices and becoming dependent on desires is another form of slavery. A heroin addict or even a smoker is often a slave to his body's desires. Materialism, too, may be addictive. Many forces pull on a person's body and cloud the desires of the soul. If a person loses sight of what is truly meaningful, he no longer experiences true freedom. "Desire" enslaves as much as any drug.
Imagine that you have no material possessions. Zero. Ask yourself: "Now what is the quality of my life?" This will tell you if your soul is really free from the desires of your body.
Or, as the Haggadah says, ask a more immediate question: "Why am I at the Passover table? Am I hungry and want to get the Haggadah over with so we can get to the meal? If you have ever worked on a very meaningful project that had you so engrossed you completely forgot about eating, then you know what it is like to be aware you need to eat without being hungry. Your body needs food; your car needs gas. But hunger is a desire that controls you.
Or ... are you at the Passover table because you are needy? Do you recognize a lack freedom and therefore wish to participate in the Seder that is a lesson in freedom? Do you feel that your soul is restrained, that life is lacking it's luster? Do you ever feel that even though you don't have someone telling you what to do, at the same time you don't know what to do? Do you want to satiate your need for freedom?
Which is it? The answer will tell you whether your body or your soul is in charge! We can let our body pull us so that our drive is to eat, or let our soul take control and strive for freedom. If you come to the Passover table because you are hungry, then you have made the choice of following your body. The point is not to become an aesthetic and starve yourself. Rather, it is an issue of who is in control ― your stomach or your soul?
These two choices are in front of you. Make a real choice now. And don't be a hypocrite: If you came for the meal, then skip the Haggadah and go straight to the chicken soup! Or, take the Haggadah seriously as a guide-book to finding freedom. Make a decision!
This choice is not only for Passover. It's a choice we can make every day of our lives. Look to yourself and determine what is driving you, your stomach or your mind. Your eyes or your heart. Does the idea of a meaningful idea get you excited as much as the smell of chocolate cake?
The most important step is to decide. Because the alternative of not choosing is paralysis. Today, many young people find it difficult to choose a spouse, a career, a roommate ― and certainly a life direction. "Choosing" is one of life's greatest pleasures. Right or wrong decisions bring success or failure. But for those who make no decisions, there is simply nothing. The Haggadah exhorts us: Start choosing today
Back to basics, get rid of what is bloated and inflated
“Letting go means just what it says. It’s an invitation to cease clinging to anything- whether it be an idea, a thing, an event, a particular time, or view, or desire. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance into the stream of present moments as they are unfolding. To let go means to give up coercing, resisting or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking. It’s akin to letting your palm open to unhand something you have been holding on to.”
I am always puzzled by the beginning of the Haggadah , where we declare, "All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy come and celebrate Passover." Being that this is said while sitting at the dinner table, the only people hearing it are those who are already there. What is the point of making grand invitations when the truly needy can't hear it?
That invitation is not intended for outsiders. We are inviting ourselves and the people around us to really be present at the Seder. While we may be sitting at the table, our minds can be miles away. But then we may miss out on the most powerful spiritual journey - the Seder.
Each one of us is hungry, and we are all needy. We have a soul that hungers for nourishment and inspiration, and we all feel a profound need for our inner self to be freely expressed. Our soul yearns to love, to give, to contribute to the world and to connect to G‑d. But our soul is sometimes trapped, surrounded by obstacles to its being free - scars from the past that cripple us; fears that prevent us from opening our hearts; bad habits that waste our time and divert our energy; toxic relationships that we have become dependant on; negative attitudes that darken our vision; egotism and complacency that stunt our growth.
We are stuck in our own inner Egypt, with these internal slave-masters holding us back from becoming who we are supposed to be. Like Pharaoh of old, our ego doesn't want to let us go. Even as we sit down to the Seder to read the story of the Israelite Exodus from slavery, we are still slaves.
So at the beginning of the Seder we invite ourselves to really come to the Seder and experience freedom. Don't let yourself be enslaved to your Egypt any longer. "Whoever is hungry, come and eat. Whoever is needy, come and celebrate Passover." If you hunger for inspiration, come and absorb the Haggadah's message of liberty. Don't just sit there - enter into the Passover experience with your entire being. Read the story of the Exodus, taste the Matzah, the food of faith, and drink in the wine of freedom.
The Seder night is more than just a commemoration of miracles of the past; it is a personal experience, the exodus of the soul. The same spiritual energies that brought about the miracles long ago are reawakened. Freedom is in the air. On Passover long ago we left Egypt; this Passover we can free ourselves from our own slavery.
We can rush through the Haggadah to get to the main course. Then our souls remain trapped. Rather let's take our time, allowing the eternal story of freedom sink in and become a part of us. Let yourself go - free your soul.
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 recline?
Mah nishtanah halyla hazeh mikol halaylot
1) She'bechol halaylot ain anu matbilin afilu pa'am echat, halyla hazeh shtei pe'amim?
2) She'bechol halaylot anu ochlim chametz o matza, halyla hazeh kulo maztah?
3) She'bechol halaylot anu ochlim she'ar yerakot, halyla hazeh maror?
4) She'bechol halaylot anu ochlim bain yoshvin bain mesubin, halyla hazeh kulanu mesubin?
Pourquoi cette nuit se différencie-t-elle de toutes les autres nuits?
1) Toutes les nuits, nous ne sommes pas tenus de tremper même une seule fois, cette nuit nous le faisons deux fois?
2) Toutes les nuits, nous mangeons du 'Hametz ou de la Matzah, cette nuit, seulement de la Matzah?
3) Toutes les nuits, nous mangeons n'importe quel sorte de légumes, cette nuit, du Maror?
4) Toutes les nuits, nous mangeons assis ou accoudés, cette nuit, nous sommes tous accoudés?
¿Qué hace diferente a esta noche de todas las [demás] noches?
1) En todas las noches no precisamos sumergir ni siquiera una vez, ¡y en esta noche lo hacemos dos veces?
2) En todas las noches comemos jametz o matzá, ¡en esta noche solamente matzá?
3) En todas las noches comemos cualquier clase de verdura, ¡esta noche maror?
4) En todas las noches comemos sentados erguidos o reclinados, ¡esta noche todos nos reclinamos!
Perché è diversa questa sera da tutte le altre?
1) Perché tutte le sere non intingiamo neppure una volta questa sera lo facciamo due volte?
2) Perché tutte le sere noi mangiamo chamètz e matzà questa sera soltanto matzà?
3) Perché tutte le sere noi mangiamo qualsiasi verdura questa sera maròr?
4) Perché tutte le sere noi mangiamo e beviamo sia seduti e sia adagiati, ma questa sera siamo tutti adagiati?
Was unterscheidet diese Nacht von allen anderen Nächten?
In allen anderen Nächten brauchen wir nicht ein einziges Mal einzutunken, in dieser Nacht zweimal?
In allen anderen Nächten können wir Gesäuertes und Ungesäuertes essen, in dieser Nacht nur Ungesäuertes?
In allen anderen Nächten können wir verschiedene Kräuter essen, in dieser Nacht nur bittere Kräuter?
In allen anderen Nächten können wir freisitzend oder angelehnt essen, in dieser Nacht sitzen wir alle angelehnt?
Oneul pameun piongso pamdeul kwa pikiohalte otoke tareumnika?
Piongso pameneun han bonto chikoso mokzi aneunde, oneul pameneun we tubonina chikoso mokseumnika?
Piongso pameneun chametzto mokko, matzahto mokneunde, oneul pameneun we matzahman mokseumnika?
Piongso pameneun yoro yachereur mokneunde, oneul pameneun we maror mokseumnika?
Piongso pameneun hori pioso ankito hago, kideso ankito haneunde, oneul pameneun we uri modu ta kideso anjaya hamnika?
The Seder is all about answering questions. But one question remains unanswered, and that’s the most important question – Why? We are taught, “ In every generation, each person must see him/herself as if s/he were redeemed from Egypt.” But why? Why return to Egypt year after year? Why re-taste the bitterness of slavery? Ask the Torah – What difference does this experience make for me? How am I shaped by the experience of slavery and liberation? Here is the Torah’s response…Out of Exodus comes a fully-formed social vision, an ethic, and way of looking at history. Read each verse, and ask how the experience of Egypt shapes us, shapes our behavior, our society, our expectations for the world. This is the missing page from the Haggadah, the answer to Why?
Exodus 22:20 -- You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan.
Exodus 23: 5 -- When you see your enemy’s mule lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it with him. You shall not subvert the rights of your needy in their disputes. ... You shall not oppress a stranger for you know the soul of the stranger having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 19:33 -- When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I the Lord am your God.
Leviticus 25:35 -- If your kinsman, becomes poor, and his means fail, then you shall uphold him, you shall hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side: do not exact from him advance or accrued interest, but fear your God. Let him live by your side as your kinsman. Do not lend him money at advance interest or give him your food at accrued interest. I the Lord am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 -- Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; you shall not do any work -- you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the stranger in your settlements so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Deuteronomy 10:17 -- God shows no favor and takes no bribe but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow and befriends the stranger providing him with food and clothing. You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 24:17ff -- You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow's garment in pawn. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.
When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow -- in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again, this shall go to the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not pick it over again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt ; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.
Exodus 20:1-2 -- I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods besides Me.
The Fifth Question: What can we do to help alleviate poverty?
There are numerous charities which aim to get donations to end poverty. It is important to make food and money to these various charities to help others. We must remember that we were once "strangers in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 23:9). This quote appears numerous times in the Torah and explains to us to have sympathy for others because we were once abused and manipulated so we should consider to help others.
The Four Sons correspond to the Four Questions.
We'll start with the Wise Son. He asks, "What are these statutes?" In the Torah, statutes ( chukim ) are laws which don't have any apparent rational reason. For example, why don't Jews eat pork? Many people think it's because of health reasons, so you shouldn't get trichinosis. But the Torah itself says it's really because of a spiritual reason. Why?
The pig is the only animal in the world possessing the outward symbol of kosher (split hooves), but not the inward symbol (chewing cud). The pig therefore represents that which is kosher in outward appearance, but is in fact unclean on the inside. This type of hypocrisy is described in the Talmud as one of the categories of behavior that God detests. For that moral reason, the pig is universally viewed as reprehensible to the Jew.
Kabbalah teaches that eating this animals empowers the body and makes it harder to be a spiritual person.
And so you should instruct him in the laws of Passover, that one may not eat anything after the Passover offering.
These days, with the Temple in ruins, we don't have the Passover offering. So instead, we eat the Afikomen, a piece of matzah at the end of the meal. This corresponds to the first of the Four Questions: On all other nights we eat chametz, on this night matzah. Because this night we have to get back to the essentials, the understanding of what life is about. That's the essence of wisdom. You pull back from your ego and you see what really counts. That's the Wise Son. He wants to grasp, and he uses the laws of Passover to do it.
What does the Evil Son say?
He gives us a hard time. "What's all this Passover stuff to you?" he says. I don't need this." He excludes himself from the Jewish people. He's mocking, making fun of it all. "It's all a joke and I don't care about being a Jew." He's not even asking a question; he's hoping you won't have an answer.
Why isn't the Evil Son placed last? Isn't he the worst? Why did the Sages list him after the Wise Son? Because even though the Evil Son is fighting -- at least he's engaged in the discussion and you've got somebody to talk to. He's alert and thinking. If you can turn him around, you've got another Wise Son!
You may ask why the Evil Son is listed here at all. Because he's still part of the Jewish people. We have to make an effort to reach him.
This parallels the second of the Four Questions: "On this night we eat bitter herbs." The Evil Son represents bitterness. Because he has spent a lifetime trading in "meaning" for bodily desires. On the surface, he says "Who needs God? I want the fancy house and the expensive car." And in fact, we may look at him and think he's really having a good time. But you'd have to live with him to see how bitter his life really is. Do you think his wife and children respect him?
To be chasing your desires is a bitter trap. So on Passover, we eat the Marror and say "Yuch!" Because that's how it tastes to be running after your desires. Miserable and bitter.
SHAKEN BY THE EVENT
The third son is the Simple Son. He says, "What is this?" So you say to him, "God brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand."
Who is this simple son? I've seen pictures in Haggadahs where they show this poor kid with soup dripping from his chin because they think that tam in Hebrew means that he's stupid and can't think straight. But really tam means simple, calm, plain. He's not an intellectual, and he may not know much about Judaism -- but he wants to do the right thing. He gives charity, he has a good heart -- but he doesn't know reasons for things. Because he's not studying, he relates to the experiential, pain aspect of Judaism.
The third son corresponds to the third question: On this night we dip twice. The Simple Son needs to see a change in order to be stimulated and arouse his curiosity -- to get him moving. He's the type of person who goes to a funeral, and (if even for a brief moment) asks himself the question, "What is life all about?" He takes a trip to Israel and gets a lift.
Unfortunately it's often anti-Semitism that focuses the third son. We dip into salt water which represents the tears of the Jews. The biggest thing holding Jews together in today is the fear of Israel falling and the memory of the Holocaust.
At the Seder, the third son comments on the strange custom, "Why are we dipping?" It's the changes that get him thinking.
APATHETIC AND EVIL?
The fourth son is the one who doesn't know how to ask. So what do we tell him? "Because of this that God did for me..."
The fourth son is apathetic. He's not thinking and he doesn't much care. So we tell him the same answer we gave to the Evil Son -- because apathy can be very easily turned into hate and rejection. That's why Judaism says apathy is an aspect of evil. And that's why this son is listed last. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
The fourth son corresponds to the fourth question: "On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining." At the Seder, we're free and we should use that opportunity to direct ourselves toward meaning. But the apathetic son is laid back and could go either way. He could change and care, or he could just slump back and go to sleep.
The hardest thing about reaching Jews today is they're apathetic. They don't really care, they don't want to listen.
TAKE IT PERSONALLY
In truth, each of us is a composite of these Four Sons, the four types of Jews. To some extent, we all want meaning, we're searching and thinking -- like the first son. Yet sometimes we treat life as a joke and we rebel -- like the second son. And sometimes it takes a sunset or suffering to arouse us to think and change -- like the third son. And at times we feel apathetic, walking around in a daze -- like the fourth son.
These are the Four Sons within each of us.
British Museum & Evidence of Israelite Slavery in Egypt
A mud brick with straw, stamped with a royal seal that says “House of Ramses ll,” and other cool artifacts.
The table of archaeological finds below, presented to me by Dr. John H. Taylor, the curator of the Egypt Department of the British Museum in London, reveals a mud brick with straw which is stamped with a royal seal which says: “House of Ramses ll”. The mud brick, seen on the left side of the photo below, is one of 20 held in the basement vaults of the museum, and not exhibited to the public. The brick has been carbon dated to the Israelite period of slavery in Egypt.
Dr. Taylor states that the Israelites did not build the pyramids as is commonly thought. The pyramids were built 100 years after the Israelites left Egypt. What they did build were cities. The Bible states in Exodus 1:11-14, “So they appointed taskmasters over it (the Israelite nation) in order to afflict it with their burdens; it built storage cities for Pharaoh, Pithom and Ramses…They embittered their lives with hard work, with mortar and with bricks…” The Bible further states in Exodus, 5:10, “The taskmasters of the people and its foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, “So said Pharaoh, I am not giving you straw. Go yourselves and take yourselves straw from whatever you find, for nothing will be reduced from your work.” In the close up photo of the brick below, one can see the straw and the seal which states, “House of Ramses ll”.
Below is a mural of slaves building a structure in Egypt dated from the Israelite period showing a pile of mud bricks similar to the brick displayed on the table above. Dr. John H. Taylor holds curatorial responsibility for ancient Egyptian funerary antiquities, amulets and jewelry. He also provides curatorial supervision for the departmental loans program. These items are sometimes loaned to outside museums and organizations.
Dr. Taylor then showed me a 12-foot iron snake staff found in a pyramid tomb. Shown below, the staff has a cobra head and is wavy and is evidence of the Egyptian magician’s staves mentioned in the Bible in Exodus, 7:11-12, “The magicians of Egypt did so with their incantations. Each one cast down his staff and they became snakes; and the staff of Aaron swallowed their staffs.” The entire snake staff can be seen at the front of the table in the first photo above. The staff is wave like and when placed on the ground and manipulated by a magician can give the illusion of snake like movement. Egyptian magicians were known to be illusionists.
The wicker basket below is dated to the Egyptian period of the Israelites and is evidence of the use of wicker baskets as recorded in the Bible, Exodus 2: 3, “She could not hide him any longer, so she took a wicker basket and smeared it with clay and pitch; she placed the child (Moses) into it and placed it among the reeds at the bank of the River (Nile). “
The copper mirrors at the far right of the first photo above are evidence of the existence of copper mirrors used by Israelite women to beautify themselves and to entice their husbands to produce children despite the dangers of bringing children into the world amidst a slave existence. These copper mirrors are referred to in the Bible in Exodus 38:8, “He (Moses) made the wash basin of copper and its base of copper, from the mirrors of the legions who massed at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. “ The 11th century French Biblical commentator, Rashi, comments that the Jewish women used these mirrors to beautify themselves in order to entice their husbands to produce children despite the fear of bringing children into a life of slavery. This attests to the greater faith of the Israelite women than that exhibited by the Israelite men, which faith has continued to sustain Jewish continuity.
The organizer of this private tour to the British Museum is London educator and historian, Rabbi Aryeh Forta who organizes monthly private tours of the Jewish artifacts at the British Museum. Also seen on this tour was a 3500 year old matzah with finger imprints of the matzah maker and silver wine bowls from the palace of Achashverosh mentioned in Megillas Esther.
The Ten Plagues - Live From Egypt
by Rabbi Mordechai Becher
In the early 19th Century a papyrus, dating from the end of the Middle Kingdom, was found in Egypt. It was taken to the Leiden Museum in Holland and interpreted by A.H. Gardiner in 1909. The complete papyrus can be found in the book Admonitions of an Egyptian from a heiratic papyrus in Leiden. The papyrus describes violent upheavals in Egypt, starvation, drought, escape of slaves (with the wealth of the Egyptians), and death throughout the land. The papyrus was written by an Egyptian named Ipuwer and appears to be an eyewitness account of the effects of the Exodus plagues from the perspective of an average Egyptian. Below are excerpts from the papyrus together with their parallels in the Book of Exodus.
(For a lengthier discussion of the papyrus and the historical background of the Exodus, see Jewish Action, Spring 1995, article by Brad Aaronson, entitled When Was the Exodus? )
IPUWER PAPYRUS - LEIDEN 344TORAH - EXODUS2:5-6 Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere.
2:10 The river is blood.
2:10 Men shrink from tasting - human beings, and thirst after water
3:10-13 That is our water! That is our happiness! What shall we do in respect thereof? All is ruin.
7:20 …all the waters of the river were turned to blood.
7:21 ...there was blood thoughout all the land of Egypt …and the river stank.
7:24 And all the Egyptians dug around the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.
2:10 Forsooth, gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire.
10:3-6 Lower Egypt weeps... The entire palace is without its revenues. To it belong [by right] wheat and barley, geese and fish
6:3 Forsooth, grain has perished on every side.
5:12 Forsooth, that has perished which was yesterday seen. The land is left over to its weariness like the cutting of flax.
9:23-24 ...and the fire ran along the ground... there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous.
9:25 ...and the hail smote every herb of the field, and broke every tree of the field.
9:31-32 ...and the flax and the barley was smitten; for the barley was in season, and flax was ripe.
But the wheat and the rye were not smitten; for they were not grown up.
10:15 ...there remained no green things in the trees, or in the herbs of the fields, through all the land of Egypt.
5:5 All animals, their hearts weep. Cattle moan...
9:2-3 Behold, cattle are left to stray, and there is none to gather them together.
9:3 ...the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field... and there shall be a very grievous sickness.
9:19 ...gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field...
9:21 And he that did not fear the word of the Lord left his servants and cattle in the field.
9:11 The land is without light
10:22 And there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt.
4:3 (5:6) Forsooth, the children of princes are dashed against the walls.
6:12 Forsooth, the children of princes are cast out in the streets.
6:3 The prison is ruined.
2:13 He who places his brother in the ground is everywhere.
3:14 It is groaning throughout the land, mingled with lamentations
12:29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive that was in the prison.
12:30 ...there was not a house where there was not one dead.
12:30 ...there was a great cry in Egypt.
the Jews could get water but the Egyptians had to buy water from the Jews if they wanted to drink
every time an Egyptians tried to kill a frog they would multiply. The frogs would jump into the Egyptians ovens to serve Hashem
the plague of lice the sorcerers could not copy. Pharaoh would
not ask for their help again.
the miracle of this plague was that animals who normally live in different places and keep away from each other join together to fight the Egyptians.
all the animals that the Egyptians owned died but any sick or weak animal that belonged to a Jew became healthy and strong.
Moshe threw up 4 handfuls of soot into the sky and all the Egyptians suffered painful boils all over their bodies
Hashem used fire to punish Sedom and water during the great flood but joined them together to punish the Egyptians for being to cruel to the Jews. Some Egyptians realized that Moshe was telling the truth so brought the animals in from the fields
their was 7 types of locus, each making sure that they ate everything. the Egyptians tried to pickle the locus to save for food but Hashem did not allow this, and sent a strong wind to carry them into the sea.
the darkness was so thick the Egyptians could not even move. this plague only lasted 6 days
Hashem passed over the house of the Jews and killed every first born Egyptian human/animal. pharaoh ran to Moses and told him to leave but Moses said the Jews would only leave a day break and not at night like thiefs.
A traveler once was stopped by a highway robber who demanded his moneybag at gunpoint. “I’ll give you my money!” said the traveler. “But please, if I come home emptyhanded, my wife will never believe that I was robbed, and will accuse me of having squandered the money on gambling or liquor, and she will beat me mercilessly. Please, do me the favor of firing several bullets through my hat, so I can prove to her that I was held up.”
The robber saw no reason not to comply, and shot several times through the man’s hat.
“Thank you so much,” the traveler said. “But you don’t know my wife. She will say I punctured the hat, and that these were not bullet holes at all. Here, take my coat and shoot several bullets through it at close range, leaving powder marks. That will convince her for sure.”
When the traveler saw that the last pull of the trigger hit an empty chamber, he pounced on the robber, knocking him to the ground, retrieved his moneybag and fled.
The Inner Thief
This story, told by chassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov,2 conveys the tragic pattern of many a person’s life. We each have a thief, or a negative inclination, lingering within us. The thief continuously wishes to rob us of our inner goodness and spirituality. Yet many of us discover the willingness and the power to battle our thief only after he has fired all his bullets against us. Only after allowing our unhealthy addictions and impulses to consume our lives do we realize that they are hollow and empty, and finally find the courage to subdue the thief and embark on the path of recovery.
The Ten Plagues
The ten famous plagues that are recorded in the Torah are not to be viewed as merely a set of supernatural occurrences that wrecked the Egyptian empire around 3300 years ago. The Torah is not only a book recording ancient tales, but a blueprint for life, a manual for the development of the human race. Therefore, the episodes recorded in the Torah represent timeless, spiritual tales occurring continuously in the heart of each man.
How are we to apply the story of the Ten Plagues to our personal lives in the 21st century?
Anatomy of the Soul
The Kabbalah teaches that every human soul is comprised of ten points of energy, ten characteristics that make up its inner personality. The first three form the subconscious identity of the soul and its cognitive powers. The final seven constitute the emotional persona of the soul. These ten characteristics, also known as the ten sefirot (“lights”), are enumerated in Kabbalah in the following manner:
Hebrew Name English Translation Plague
Keter --------------- Supra-conscious ------------Death of Firstborn
Chochmah -------- Conception -------------------Darkness
Binah----------------- Intelligence -------------------Locusts
Chessed------------- Love ----------------------------Hail
Gevurah ------------ Rejection----------------------Boils
Tif’eret --------------- Compassion ----------------Epidemic
Netzach-------------- Ambition ---------------------Devouring Beasts
Hod -------------------- Submission -----------------Lice
Yesod ------------------ Bonding ---------------------Frogs
Malchut---------------- Confidence---------------- Blood
Each of us was given a choice in life. We may either refine and repair these ten attributes so that they express our inner divine light, or we may pervert and corrupt these very attributes, by using them in unhealthy and immoral ways.
Ancient Egypt, with its demonic program of systematically eliminating an entire people, the Hebrews, from the face of the earth, chose to embark on the latter path. The original Egyptian nation perverted all ten attributes of its soul. The negative energy engendered by the perversion of so many human spirits returned back to Egypt in the form of ten plagues that befell the country.
In our personal lives, Egypt reflects a state of psychological dysfunction, in which one or many of the soul’s attributes become distorted and dysfunctional, hindering a human being’s ability for true self-actualization and fulfillment. This is indicated in the Hebrew name for “Egypt,” Mitzrayim, which may be translated as “inhibitions” or “constraints.”4 When we fail to confront our own demons, our perverted attributes can return to us too in the form of psychological plagues.
The Ten Plague thus correspond to the Ten Sefirot (from the bottom up, as in the table above):
1) Blood—Destructive Confidence
The first plague, in which the Nile River turned into blood, was a physical symbol of the destructive confidence that became the hallmark of Egypt, the geographical as well as the psychological Egypt. Instead of a constructive confidence that builds one’s spiritual character and fosters sensitivity to others, “Egyptian” confidence breeds dominance and exploitation of other people.5 When one’s perception of confidence becomes truly corrupt, it can lead that person to generate rivers of blood, as the Egyptians indeed did.
The Nile River embodied the source of Egyptian confidence and security. Since little rain falls in Egypt, the country’s agriculture and sustenance are completely dependent on the Nile; therefore the ancient Egyptians actually deified the Nile.6 The waters of the Nile turning into blood reflected the perverse state of a nation which turns its confidence into blood, using its position of strength and power to slaughter and butcher countless innocent human beings.
2) Frogs—Cold Intimacy
The second plague, in which swarms of frogs inundated Egypt, symbolized the cold and dispassionate intimacy characterizing a person who lives in a psychological Egypt.
Frogs are cold-blooded amphibious creatures, and they hatch in cold climates.7 Female frogs usually deposit their eggs into water, where they hatch into tadpoles. Also land-dwelling frogs deposit their eggs in cold and moist holes.8 Due to this, and to the fact that eggs deposited in this fashion receive no parental protection, frogs came to reflect in the Kabbalah an emotional state of apathy, detachment and coldness.9
This condition robs a human being of the ability to experience genuine emotional intimacy with any other person—a spouse, a child or a friend. The “frog” personality is the person who when asked, “What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?” replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”
3) Lice—Unhealthy Submission
The third plague, in which the dust of Egypt turned into lice, reflected the symptoms of unhealthy submission.
The attribute of “submission,” like all attributes of the soul, can be productive or destructive. To forever remain a humble student of life’s lessons is one of the noblest character traits an individual can possess. The ability to surrender one’s ego to a higher truth is the foundation for all spiritual growth, as is the capacity to confess an error or a wrongdoing. “May my soul be like dust” is a daily Jewish prayer,10 expressing our wish that we remain humble in the presence of life’s mysteries. That is healthy humility and submission.
Destructive “Egyptian” submission is a humility that crushes one’s spirit and dulls its zest for life. In this type of submission, where one thinks of himself as a worthless creature who doesn’t matter, the perception of the self as useless dust develops into lice that demoralize and debase one’s life. Like the dust-turned-to-lice of Egypt, this type of humility sucks out a person’s blood, depriving him of his vitality and energy flow.
The holy Rabbi Aaron of Karlin put it in these words: “Depression is not a sin; yet what depression does, no sin can do.”
4) Devouring Beasts—Wild Ambition
The fourth plague, in which a swarm of devouring beasts attacked Egypt, is the physical symbol of unhealthy ambition.
Ambition is one of the greatest gifts in life. Ambition is the engine that drives a person to achieve greatness and make a difference in the world. Yet, if we do not refine this character trait, our ambitions can turn us into “devouring beasts” that crush and destroy the people we perceive to be standing in the way of the fulfillment of our goals.
5) Epidemic—Sly Compassion
The fifth plague, in which an epidemic annihilated the Egyptians’ cattle, served as the physical embodiment of the attribute of sly compassion, which like an epidemic, harms people silently and inconspicuously.
What is compassion? The Kabbalah teaches states that compassion is more powerful and more enduring than love. Love usually overlooks the flaws of a beloved one; therefore, when flaws do emerge, they may weaken the love, if not destroy it totally. Compassion, on the other hand, takes into consideration all the flaws of the individual in need of compassion, and extends a helping heart and hand regardless.11 This is holy compassion—the ability of a soul to experience the pain and the needs of its fellow human being.12
“Egyptian” compassion is sly, shrewd and deceitful. This well-finessed and seductive compassion is employed in order to exploit other people’s weaknesses for selfish purposes and destructive goals. When one uses compassion in this manner, it inflicts damage on a person in the silent and deadly way of an epidemic.13
6) Boils—Brutal Rejection
The sixth plague, in which embers from a hot furnace hurled over the land developed into boils on the skin of the Egyptian population, was the physical symbol of cruel rejection.
In Kabbalah, fire14 embodies the emotion of rejection, the soul’s capacity to refuse a person or a thing.15 Like fire, an act or a word of rejection may scorch or even demolish the one who is rejected. An additional connection between fire and rejection lies in the fact that fire surges upwards, moving away from earth. Rejection, too, constitutes an act of traveling inward and upward into one’s own world, removing one’s self from the people and the events in one’s environment.
Yet a healthy soul needs to know how to reject as much as it must know how to embrace. One is often called upon to refuse a destructive urge, to sever an unhealthy relationship, to say no to a spoiled child or an unethical business offer. That is healthy fire. It is a fire that destroys the negative in order to build the positive.
However, when our inner capacity for rejection turns into hate, bitterness and cruelty, the embers of our soul become a destructive force. Like boils, they infect our lives and the lives of people around us.
7) Hail—Frozen Love
The seventh plague, in which produce-destroying hail descended upon Egypt, was symbolic of selfish love.
If fire symbolizes rejection, it is water—naturally descending from a higher plane to a lower plane—that embodies the qualities of generosity and lovingkindness. In Kabbalah, the flow of love is compared to a flow of water, irrigating and nourishing a human soul with its refreshing vibrancy.16
Yet a person who finds himself in “Egyptian” bondage knows only an icy love—a love that is based entirely on self-seeking motives and self-centered considerations. This person’s rain-like flow of love becomes cold and frozen like hail, harming his loved ones instead of nurturing them.17
Va’eira and Bo: From Heart to Mind
It is not a coincidence that the Ten Plagues are recorded in two different sections of the Bible—the first seven in the Parshah of Va’eira (Exodus 7:19–9:35), and the final three in the Parshah of Bo (Exodus 10:1–12:33).
The first seven plagues—blood, frogs, lice, devouring beasts, epidemic, boils and hail—reflected the Egyptian perversion of the seven emotions: confidence, bonding, submission, ambition, compassion, rejection and love. The last three plagues—locust, darkness and the death of the first-born—represented the more severe corruption of the intellectual faculties and supra-conscious dimensions of the Egyptian soul.
When one’s emotions and instincts are impaired, the sane and objective mind offers hope for healing. But when a person’s mind starts playing ugly games with him, the path toward recovery becomes that much more painstakingly challenging.
8) Locust—Perverted Intelligence
The eighth plague, in which invading locusts left nothing green throughout Egypt, served as a symbol of the destructive consequences of a corrupted mind.
The ability of intellectual inquiry and scrutiny remains the singular most precious gift of the human race. It allows us to explore the universe, improve our lives and discover the higher moral calling of the human family. Yet the very same power may serve as a tool to rationalize every evil practiced under the face of the sun, and to justify every destructive lifestyle or habit.
Like the locust swarm that consumed all the existing plants of Egypt, leaving in its wake a barren soil, the corrupt mind can uproot every existing moral structure and every established sacred foundation, leaving in its wake a desolate society bereft of spiritual values or absolute principles. This is the tragedy of Egypt-like intellectualism, where one becomes so open-minded that his brains fall out.18
9) Darkness—A Locked Mind
The ninth plague, in which a thick darkness pervaded Egypt, reflected the inability of the inhibited “Egyptian” soul to actualize its faculty of conception.
The power of conception is the ability of one’s mind to conceive a new and original idea that was previously inaccessible. How? By the mind keenly realizing its limitations and borders, suspending its intellectual ego and opening itself up to a higher light, the previously inaccessible truth can emerge and illuminate the mind’s newly created empty space.19
When a person is arrogant and smug, he denies his mind the ability to experience illumination. He forces himself to remain in darkness, constricted forever to his own narrow vision of life.
10) Death of Firstborn—Death of Identity
The tenth and final plague, during which the firstborn of Egypt died, was the most devastating of all. It reflected the fact that the Egyptian abuse of the soul did not only affect its conscious faculties, but went on to distort and destroy its supra-conscious forces as well.
In the Kabbalah, the firstborn member of a family is symbolic of the first-formed instincts and motives of a soul, which lie beneath the surface of the conscious self. That dimension of the personality is usually more difficult to violate, because it is hidden and inaccessible. But a lifestyle of ongoing addiction and abuse will ultimately bring about the death of the firstborn, or the death of the supra-conscious element of one’s soul.20
This was the final “bullet” that put an end to the vicious cycle of Egyptian addiction and abuse. The Jewish people were set free, and they were well on their way to receive the Ten Commandments.
What are the Ten Commandments? They correspond to the Ten Plagues.21 Just as the plagues reflected the perversion of the ten faculties of the soul, the Ten Commandments represent the path of spiritual healing in each of these ten faculties, allowing all ten of them to express the harmony and splendor of man’s divine essence.22
The Haggadah is not just about the Exodus from Egypt. Look below its surface and you'll discover a rich subtext that imparts essential lessons about gratitude and how to thank God for Divine benevolence.
The Haggadah's name comes from the Hebrew verb, " l'hagid , " "to tell." There are other verbs that mean "to tell," but " l'hagid " implies paying attention to details.
On Seder night we go over the fine points of what actually happened. We dwell on the details.
When we sing " Dayeinu , " we list what seems like an itemized account of everything God did to take us out of Egypt. After each line, we say " dayeinu, " it would have been enough if that was all God did for us. Then, but wait! There's more! The next verse lists another. We say "it would have been enough" to show that we recognize and appreciate the benefit of every single thing the Almighty did for us.
At our Seder, one of the guests inevitably protests, "But it wouldn't have been enough if God had divided the sea for us, but not brought us across on dry land. We wouldn't have been saved, and the whole purpose of taking us out of Egypt would have been negated."
The itemized list of " Dayeinu " is not to assert that the steps which follow each item were expendable. Dayeinu is not an intellectual construct, but rather an attitude, a sense of fullness, of having received so much that one feels satisfied.
Dayeinu consciousness is the opposite of the attitude, "He/she/they didn't do enough for me." I once had a conversation with a young man who was full of complaints about his parents. I asked, "When you were young, did they take care of you when you were sick?"
He answered, "Sure, all parents do."
"Did they provide you with clothes, books, toys, a bicycle, and your own P.C.?"
"Sure, but so what?" he replied. "There were plenty of things I didn't get."
The foundation for any loving relationship -- with parents, with one's spouse, or with God -- is appreciation. And the foundation of appreciation is noticing and being grateful for each specific thing we receive. " Dayeinu ."
Right before we sing " Dayeinu , " the Haggadah recounts a disagreement among Rabbi Yossi the Galilean, Rabbi Eliezer, and Rabbi Akiva over just how many facets there were to the Ten Plagues and exactly how many miracles occurred at the splitting of the Red Sea.
In many Seders, this section elicits a disgruntled, "Who cares?" (especially among those who are hungry for dinner). Ten Plagues, 50 plagues, 200 Plagues. What's the difference?
The secret of gratitude is specificity. Let's say that on their wedding anniversary, Jon gave his wife Ruth a heart-shaped box tied with a beautiful ribbon filled with chocolates of different shapes and flavors. How does Jon know Ruth is really grateful? If she thanks him not only for the chocolates, but also for the box and the ribbon, and as she eats each one she points out, "Oh, this one is in the shape of a butterfly." "Look at this one; it looks like a cameo." "This one tastes like mocha, my favorite," then Jon is certain that her gratitude is genuine.
A child's self-esteem is not promoted by general compliments. The child dismisses, "Oh, that's a beautiful picture you drew," as a stock reply, not real praise. If you want her to feel good about your compliment, be specific: "I like the red color you drew the flowers with; it's so bright. And that butterfly with the blue and green dots is the happiest butterfly I ever saw." Children, who are experts at discerning what's genuine, know that real appreciation hones in on the details.
The sages mentioned in the Haggadah knew this secret 2,000 years ago. The more details we can point out, the more we can be thankful for. If there were an additional fifty miracles at the splitting of the sea, that means we can thank God an additional fifty times.
Passover is about developing a loving relationship with God. Since loving relationships are based on gratitude, the Haggadah highlights all the details of the Exodus, so that we will feel overwhelmed with gratitude to God.
The relationship that is given such a spur at Passover must be sustained throughout the year. That's why Judaism mandates three prayer periods a day and blessings to be said before and after everything a Jew eats or drinks. When a Jew is grateful for every little thing, he or she realizes that nothing is little. Even a glass of water is a way of connecting to God who created it. Loving God means being grateful for the amazing way each finger moves and feels, for the immune-system's full-time, assiduous protection, and for even the services provided by the little hairs inside the nose. Dayeinu .