The long history of our people is one of contrasts — freedom and slavery, joy and pain, power and helplessness. Passover reflects these contrasts. Tonight as we celebrate our freedom, we remember the slavery of our ancestors and realize that many people are not yet free.
Each generation changes — our ideas, our needs, our dreams, even our celebrations. So has Passover changed over many centuries into our present
holiday. Our nomadic ancestors gathered for a spring celebration when the sheep gave birth to their lambs. Theirs was a celebration of the continuity of life. Later, when our ancestors became farmers, they celebrated the arrival of spring in their own fashion. Eventually these ancient spring festivals merged with the story of the Exodus from Egypt and became a new celebration of life and freedom.
As each generation gathered around the table to retell the old stories, the symbols took on new meanings. New stories of slavery and liberation, oppression and triumph were added, taking their place next to the old. Tonight we add our own special chapter as we recall our people’s past and we dream of the future.
For Jews, our enslavement by the Egyptians is now remote, a symbol of communal remembrance. As we sit here in the comfort of our modern world, we think of the millions who still suffer the brutality of the existence that we escaped thousands of years ago.
The Torah has four children in mind: one, wise, a second, rebellious, a third, simple, and a fourth, a child who does not yet know how to ask.
The Wise Child Asks: Why do I have to go through life with a psychiatric disability? How can I learn to acknowledge that having a psychiatric condition is a part of who I am, that I'm going to accept this part of myself and be in the world as much as I can?
Why did it take me so long to get here? I'm grateful that medication is helping me, but I've still got a long way to go. Now that I'm feeling so much better, I do a lot of mitzvot.
Why don't we treat psychiatric conditions like we do physical ones? Why don't we allocate more of our resources to housing and treating those whose psyches and bodies require shelter?
The Rebellious Child Asks: Why do I have a psychiatric condition? Why are You, God, doing this to me? Is this a test? Maybe I'm being punished for being nasty to my parents and other people. I used to hate everybody and I wanted other people to have problems, too.
Why are you, my caregivers, doing these things to me? You say you're trying to help me, but I don't believe you.
Why should I keep going? I give up. I quit. Forget it, I'm out of here. It's not worth the struggle. It's too hard.
(Some call this child "The Unenlightened Child", one who is clueless about the experience of being labeled with a "mental illness".)
The "Unenlightened Child" Asks: What are they to me? Keep them off the streets and out of my way.
The Simple Child Asks: What is wrong with me?
The Child Who Does Not Know How to Ask: I need others to speak for me. Sometimes when a psychiatrist prescribes medications, I may not know enough to ask about side effects. Sometimes I'm so blown away by what the doctor is saying, I can't say a word. For this child, you shall tell of our stories, our triumphs, our struggles and our despair, saying, "This is what God has done for us and this is what we do for God."
Ilu ho-tsi, ho-tsi-a-nu,
Ilu na-tan, na-tan la-nu,
Ilu na-tan, na-tan la-nu,