PASSOVER SERMON - Changing Attitudes April 10, 2004 Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum
Today I’d like to share with you an experience from last Sunday. Perhaps it might apply to many, or even to all of us. The subject deals with changing attitudes.
Last Sunday, here, at Knesset Israel, we hosted a "model Seder," with our consolidated school for the 6 to 9-year-old students. During our time together, I posed to them a two-part question: Do you like Passover, and why or why not?
In turn, everyone was given a chance to reply, and here are some of the positive answers.
The exposure to our unique Hebrew language
For time spent with family
Special moments of reflection
For the delicious food
The gathering of the family to share in the prayers and blessing of freedom
The outings during Chol Hamoed
The Afikoman prizes and presents!
The other group, meanwhile, stated their dislikes rather bluntly.
Too much work and cleaning
My mom and dad are too mad during that time
The house is a mess
There’s too much stress and tension because of the cooking and preparation
Too much screaming
Whispers all the time, "When will this be over?"
I listened very carefully to all the children’s comments and their responses have given me a lot to think about. Children usually tell it like it is, from the most simple, innocent and honest perspective. Isn’t it important for us as parents, grandparents and teachers to draw some conclusion about these responses? When we get down to it, how do we, ourselves, actually feel about and react to the Passover experience?
Yes, preparing for Passover is much work, but if the children hear complaining from us, it definitely affects them in a negative way. It’s human nature to kvetch when we are stressed out, but how, when and where do we voice our frustrations? Furthermore, if we do, are our words and attitudes causing damage and turning people off?
Children have their antennas up all the time. When a child hears parents complaining about the cooking, cleaning, shopping and preparations, he or she might take it to heart and want to run away. But, if we perceive and transmit that Passover is a blessing from G-d, as a time to celebrate and remember our treasured heritage, it’s a golden opportunity to put life on a more orderly and stable ground. If we take all the ideas of preparing for Passover in a positive way and enjoy the ritual of cleaning our houses, cars and places of work with the goal of beautifying and structuring one’s environment, the atmosphere around us can be tremendously enhanced. After all, cleanliness is next to Godliness.
To further illustrate this point about the benefits of orderliness, I can share with you a personal example from my time in the Israeli Defense Force. My unit had a reputation for having everything in tip-top shape. Twice a day, our army officers would check our beds, uniforms and barracks. We were always ready for action and prepared for any emerging military operation. The sharpness of our surroundings also made for sharpness in our minds.
The Hebrew translation of the word "Seder" means order. Truly, the Seder is a blessing. It gives us an opportunity to exchange ideas and learn about our backround. And while it’s an arduous effort completing all the preparations, if possible, one should try to find time to take a nap before the Seder so you can be alert and not pass out at the table.
In sum, we need to have balance. We should insure that we fulfill G-d’s commandments for a satisfying Seder experience and for the rest of Passover. At the same time, we need to ensure that we are sound in mind, body and spirit to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Additionally, we are role models for the children and family around us. By setting good examples, not only in the practice ofYiddishkeit,but in taking care of ourselves as human beings, we can facilitate the continuation of our traditions with Simcha in a joyful manner.
May G-d bless everyone with the opportunity to create deeply gratifying experiences and memories as we connect with our Jewish roots. May we have total freedom to choose the proper spiritual path. As our Sages taught: "…Think good and it will be good."