Should Our Children Imitate Us?

passover_seder_table_settingPesach is coming! Monday night, March 25th is the first Seder. What kind of Seder will you have for your family and friends? Will it be “Let’s hurry up and get to the food” — or something more meaningful, uplifting, impactful? There are 3 types of people: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen … and those who ask, “What happened?” The kind of Seder you have is up to you and depends on what you do starting NOW! Make it more than — “They wanted to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”

The Seder should help your children to feel positively about being Jewish. You cannot transfer feelings, but you can create the atmosphere and the experience which will engender positive feelings. Many people who love being Jewish, fondly reminisced about their Zaideh (grandfather) presiding over the Shabbat table and the Seder or their Bubbie (grandmother) lighting Shabbat candles … and their Seder! You are a link in that chain!

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
“Shabbat Shalom Weekly”

All in all, this year’s Passover seder in my home was pretty lousy. There are a lot of reasons for this, most of which I am not at liberty to discuss. It’s wasn’t anyone’s fault. No one burned the roast, or behaved poorly, or arrived abysmally late to the event. But it certainly wasn’t the joyous occasion of freedom that I usually anticipate…at least not on the surface.

But I was disappointed and sundown at the end of Shabbat and the first full day of Passover was a sad relief. At least it was over.

-Me from my blog post
The Uninspired Passover Seder

Easter and Passover are coming and I’m dreading them both. I’m dreading Easter because I haven’t observed it in a very long time. But now that I’m going to church, I am faced with a sunrise Easter service followed by brunch (I can only imagine what’s on the menu), and then a more traditional service afterward. Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with celebrating the resurrection of the Master, but the event seems so disconnected from the way I think and feel about God, Messiah, and the Bible. But then again, that’s how I felt about church before I let myself return.

I’m dreading Passover because of what happened last year. I recall that my wife and I decided on having a seder at home at the last possible second and everything came off just as we planned…that is, we had no plan. Everything was rushed. Everything was disorganized. I felt like I’d never even seen a haggadah before let alone held one in my hand and read from it. It was miserable and I blame myself for pushing it through. I should have left well enough alone.

But I have another reason for dreading these events as they are rapidly approaching. I’ve been complaining lately about the fussing, fighting, and turf wars in the Messianic and Hebrew/Jewish Roots movements and I know the whole “Easter is pagan” stuff is about to be spewed all over the blogosphere. It’s really a war about what’s more important to us, the death of Messiah or the resurrection of Christ. It’s really a war about the cultural context to which we prefer to be adhered. It’s really an opportunity to complain and kvetch about which religious expression is “better” and how we are all trying to justify our choices for worship and identification.

Face it. All of you. It all has very little to do with God and celebrating the Messiah. Why even bother?

Remember that the Seder is for the kids, to transmit our history and understanding of life. You’ve got to make it interesting and intrigue them to ask questions. If a person asks a question, he’ll be inclined to hear the answer! The only way to transmit your love and feeling for Judaism is through shared, positive experiences. You need to be excited about the Seder!

sunrise-easter-serviceIf I was a traditional Christian traveling along the usual Christian path, Easter would be one of the most important times of year for me. But if I strip away the cultural history and context that has built up over the long centuries, in celebrating the resurrection of Messiah, we’re celebrating the entrance of hope into the world for all of humanity. Watching the sun come up on Easter Sunday while praying and singing hymns and praising God for His Son must be like watching the dawn of an era of grace and illumination, the promise of peace to all mankind through our Lord Jesus Christ.

If I was a traditional religious Jewish person, Passover would be a time to be very excited. It’s yet another wonderful opportunity on our calendars to celebrate our liberation, our identity, our journey to the Torah, and the platform upon which we can pass what it is to be a Jew down to the next generation, participating in the continued survival and existence of the Jewish people, illustrating that against all odds, God cares about us and He is with us, and He is sufficient for us.

But I’m neither of those things. In spite of all my efforts, I’m still a person journeying between different worlds. My “traditions” aren’t set in concrete like those of most other Christians or Jewish believers. I exist in a molten plastic universe where I’m exploring concepts, ideas, realities, and existences. I can see the Shabbat from a direction of devotion and a rest in Messiah for human beings, and also from a direction where it appears exclusively Jewish. I can see the vital importance of Christians celebrating Passover as a connection to the seder of the Messiah, and I can also see it as a wholly Jewish experience.

And I’m still getting really, really tired of all of the bitching about who owns what and who is obligated to what and the perpetuation of the split between believing Gentiles and Jews that was already in progress, even as Paul was still preaching in the synagogues to the born Jews, the converts, and the God-fearing Gentiles at the beginning of his “missionary journeys.”

I’m convinced that if Jewish and Gentile believers in Messiah historically ever formed any sort of unified community, it must have been one that Paul didn’t write about, and the event probably lasted about forty-five seconds until someone found a reason to argue about whether or not Gentiles should be circumcised or if a Gentile should or shouldn’t be wearing tzitzit.

You shall converse in the words of Torah and not in other things.

-Yoma 19b

The Talmud explains “other things” as referring to idle, meaning less things.

The Hebrew language has words that mean rest, play, relaxation, and pleasant activities, while it has no word for “fun.” A “fun” activity has no goal, as is implied in the colloquial expression, “just for the fun of it.” In other words, the goal of the activity is within itself, and fun does not lead to or result in anything else.

This concept is alien to Judaism. Every human being is created with a mission in life. This mission is the ultimate goal toward which everything must in one way or another be directed. Seemingly mundane activities can become goal directed; we eat and sleep so that we can function, and we function in order to achieve our ultimate goal. Even relaxation and judicious enjoyable activities, if they contribute to sound health, can be considered goal directed if they enhance our functioning. However, fun as an activity in which people indulge just to “kill time” is proscribed. Time is precious, and we must constructively utilize every moment of life.

Furthermore, since people conceptualize their self-worth in terms of their activities, doing things “just for the fun of it” may in fact harm their self-esteem.

Today I shall…

…try to direct all my activities, even rest and relaxation, to the ultimate purpose of my life.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Adar 23”

rothschild-jewish-libraryThere are days when I think the perfect life of devotion would involve the destruction of the Internet and me with my nose buried in book after book in some vast library containing all of the great Jewish and Christian wisdom of the sages and tzaddikim. It would be an old-fashioned library where people would have to be quiet. I would have my little corner with my table and chair, my reading lamp and my stack of books. I could pray uninterrupted. I could even dream of the day of Messiah’s return when he would bring peace and abolish discord.

But that doesn’t work, because faith was never intended to exist in isolation which is why, in spite of the enormous risks of mixing with foreigners, Israel was meant to be a light to the nations.

More’s the pity.

What will my seder look like this year? I don’t know that I’m going to have one. If my wife expresses the desire, then of course, we shall have one and invite as many guests as want to attend. If my wife and daughter choose to attend the public seder at one of the local synagogues, then I hope they have a marvelous time. If we are invited to someone else’s home for a seder, assuming my wife wants to go and it’s appropriate for me to go with her, we’ll go and I presume it will be a wonderful time.

I can attend a sunrise Easter service. I feel that I somehow have to as part of my commitment to my church and my renewed “Christian walk,” though I still travel a rather unusual path. I just need to pull my head out of the computer and remember that despite all of the problematic people and problematic conflicts I encounter on the web, God is not on the web nor is he confined to someone’s pet theology, doctrine, or dogma. God is God and I am grateful each day that He is so far above all of the mucking around we mire ourselves in.

If there is a perfect seder or a flawless Easter, that is yet to come…perhaps at the feast of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven…

Matthew 8:11 (ESV)

I don’t desire that anyone be thrown into the outer darkness but rather that we all learn what is really important in the Kingdom of Heaven, and then we all choose to participate in that effort. Jesus said to the Roman centurion who had been pleading for his suffering servant, “let it be done for you as you have believed.” Remember, what we believe and how we act will also be done for us, for good or for ill.

Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.

-Doc (played by Christopher Lloyd)
Back to the Future III (1990)

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

-James Baldwin

Remember, all of this isn’t just for us but for our children. Our children are watching us. Heaven help them if they should decide to imitate us.

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