parshat Vayika and the Haggadah
Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Avraham Bronstein recorded on Clubhouse on March 23rd 2023. Vayikra is a call to action. In every generation we are admonished to imagine ourselves overthrowing the Pharaoh of our day. Today we’ll survey haggadot that take this challenge and re-imagine the Haggadah for their time. We challenge our Israeli brothers and sisters to join this tradition and write today’s Hagaddah.
Sefera Source Sheet: https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/475511
Welcome to Madlik. My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition. We host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. Tonight, I am joined by my friend Rabbi Avraham Bronstein. This week’s Torah portion is Vayikra. Vayikra is a call to action. In every generation we are admonished to imagine ourselves overthrowing the Pharaoh of our day and liberating the People of Israel. Today we’ll survey haggadot that take this challenge to heart and re-imagine the Haggadah in their time and for their time. As Israelis take to the streets, we challenge ourselves to join this tradition and write a new Hagaddah. Join us for Protest Haggadah.
Well, welcome, Rabbi Bornstein. It is such a pleasure to have you. You’re from the Hampton Synagogue, which I call a home. And so, I feel right at home having you as part of Madlik. Welcome, welcome. Welcome.
Avraham Bronstein 01:14
And likewise, it’s so nice to have the chance to talk Torah with you.
Geoffrey Stern 01:18
Fantastic. So, you know, as I mentioned, normally, we do a podcast on the parshat Hashavua. And I’m going to admit, with my arm hand raised, that we’re kind of like hanging this, this session on the word Vayikra which is truly a call to action. In Hebrew. When you issue a proposal, it’s called a Kol Koreh קול קורא . An exclamation point in Hebrew is a Siman Kriah סימן קריאה . So, we’re going to take that little liberty to launch our discussion. But I get Israeli TV at home. And today, I was watching the TV and my jaw just dropped. There were demonstrations. We’ve all heard of the demonstrations. But the police are were using water hoses. And that was, you know, in the early part of the day for us here in New York, and then the Prime Minister of Israel came on. And he made an attempt at conciliatory speech. So, this is a moment, this is a moment in the history of the Jewish people. And what I’d like to think is we are going to look at the Haggadah. And we’re going to look at those Haggadot that were written at those types of moments. And for some reason, there is a very strong tradition in the Haggadah, to use it as a vehicle, to use it as a platform to comment upon what is going on. And I think the premise for that actually comes from the Haggadah itself. We all read בכל דור ודור חיב אדם לראות את עצמו כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים , in every generation, a person must regard himself as though he personally had gone out of Egypt, as it is said, And you shall tell your son on that day. So, we almost have a license, I would say a Vayikra an admonition a cry, to put ourselves into the Haggadah. And that clearly has come out. We are also going to see that there’s a lot of divisions. There’s a lot of polemics within the Haggadah ad. And there too, I believe it is rooted in the message, the mantra of the Haggadah, it says, שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלוֹתֵנוּ in every generation, they stand against us to destroy us. I don’t know whether we’re going to come out loving the Haggadah or hating the Haggadah tonight, but it is certainly a platform for very vivid, animated, emotional discussion. Rabbi what is you’re feeling about the Haggadah?
Avraham Bronstein 04:18
I think it’s so interesting what you just said, because you said all of our texts say בכל דור ודור חיב אדם לראות את עצמו כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים , in every generation we have to see ourselves as though we are leaving Egypt, right? So the exodus is not just something that happened, but it’s something which is constantly happening and the Exodus from Egypt is a paradigm. It’s an example. It’s a template for something which is going to keep happening. But the truth is that we don’t all have that text in our Haggadah. It’s not on your sheet, but I’m sure you know that my Maimonides, the Rambam had a text for the Haggadah. That’s the בכל דור ודור חיב אדם להראות את עצמו כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים , that a person has to make themselves be seen; portray themselves as though they left Egypt. And that has to do not with putting yourself in that mindset of seeing the Exodus as a paradigm. But it has to do with the things that you do to act out the story like people get up and walk around the table, or in some Sephardic communities, they beat each other with scallions to simulate the lashes that the Egyptians did. Or they keep the matzah next to them on the floor so that it’s like the Israelites sitting around their tables. In Egypt. It’s less about using the Exodus as a paradigm. It’s more about really kind of rooting yourself and portraying an event in the past. So it could very well be that each of these historical moments, what’s actually happening here is like a much larger conversation about what this data is really all about. Is it something about thanking God commemorating what happened in the past? Or is the whole point of it to see the Exodus as a paradigm and as a template for what’s happening to us right now, or to make the world that we want to see in the future?
Geoffrey Stern 06:17
You know, I think we both agreed that it says, בכל דור ודור in every generation, there’s this aspect about it, that says this is not simply a historical commemoration of something that happened in the past. But I love the fact that the Rambam, Maimonides, has a different text. And by the way, I was reading not from the Haggadah, but from the Mishnah in Pesachim. But this idea of seeing oneself, you know, how much is our self-image, determine our inner image? That we have to see ourselves as we expect to be seen. And I think one of the things that’s going to come out so clear tonight, is somehow the Haggadah is just, I would say, even emphasizing categories. What Reuven Rivlin, the last President of Israel, he divided Israel into four tribes. But it’s so amazing that here we are, there were many kibbutzim, Haggadot that a start with the typical traditional Hinneni Muchan U’mezuman. And I am focusing my attention, and instead of talking about God, they say L’Kol Yisrael. I mean, there is no question that there is no holiday that emphasizes Klal Yisrael, that we left Egypt, the worst thing that you can say in the Seder, and we shall see it is that had you been there, you would have been left out. But as you read it today, when we are faced with such division within our people, that all of that division is kind of so baked into the Haggadah, and returning to l’rot and l’harot , they’re all connected. You know, many of us are part of a quote unquote, tribe or camp. And we can’t get out of the branding, so to speak, because that’s how we see ourselves. That’s how we see other people seeing us. So, I love I love the dialectic between seeing oneself or seeing how others view ourselves.
Avraham Bronstein 06:32
I love that.
Geoffrey Stern 07:48
In any case, when I say a Haggadah of protest, I could also call it a Haggadah of polemics. I mean, the truth is that as we study Talmud, you have to know the context of a statement by a rabbi, because in many cases, there’s a polemic built into it. If you read the Aleinu, and you don’t understand what happened with the Christian community, you might not understand all the nuances. So, whether it’s protest or polemic, there’s no question that in all of our texts, the rabbi’s when they make a commentary, when they make a comment, they’re taking a position and they might be referring to someone else who has another unspoken position that they’re against. But in the Haggadah, I think it’s really on steroids. And the earliest place the most obvious place that you can see it is in the four sons. And the reason that is is luckily we have illustrated Haggadot and when I grew up at the Seder that I attended, you know, we always focused on the individual. Well, is that really an evil son? Is that really a good son? Is that a son who doesn’t know how to ask… so we really focused on why is the Haggadah, first and foremost referring to boys and not girls, and then why is it stigmatizing different types of what children. But the examples that we’re going to discuss tonight are bigger than that. Because the examples that we discuss is where the rabbis or the illustrators of the Haggadah took the tipus, took the types of Jews that were represented, and they weren’t representing members of your family, they were representing members of our tribe. And I have linked this a few notes to the clubhouse. If you’re listening to this as a podcast, it’s linked in the show notes. And unfortunately, even though we are on clubhouse, which is audible, there are some visuals here. So, the first picture is of a family sitting around the table, and the mother and father or in white, and the wise son is sitting to the left, and he’s into and of himself, he’s in white. And then there’s the evil son, and he’s cocked back on his chair, he’s smoking a cigar at presumably the Seder, he doesn’t have a covered head. And he’s in black, surprisingly, also is the child who doesn’t know how to ask, and the child who is Tam, simple, pure or whatever. It’s clear, even in this picture, that it is a social commentary. And that’s kind of fascinating that here we are, we’re celebrating Am Yisrael, the people of Israel leaving Egypt, and we have all of these, these types of images and messages that are discussing the divisions amongst us, for sure.
Avraham Bronstein 12:06
i It’s interesting, looking at the picture as you’re describing it. And there’s two rows, … the two sided table with the wicked side, and the one who’s assimilated smoking the cigar, he’s sitting at the head of the table as it were, or so the parents are facing the simple son and the son who doesn’t ask questions. But the wise son is set off to the side. He’s wearing white, just like his parents are, he’s wearing white as opposed to black, there’s three people at the table wearing white, there are three people at the table who were wearing black. But the wise son almost seems as though he’s removed from the proceedings. He’s sitting a little bit apart from his mother who’s sitting right next to his father. And instead of looking at the other people that are around the table like everybody else is he’s looking down into his book. And I think he’s the only person at the table who actually has a book. So, you can imagine kind of the commentary, right? In like modern terms, he will be kind of the geek or the nerd character in the coming-of-age movie, right? He’s the one who’s like, walking through the hallway of the high school reading the book, while life is going on around them. There’s a little bit of commentary happening there also saying He’s on our team, he’s wearing white as opposed to black. But yet, he’s also kind of setting himself aside in a way which is a little bit disturbing. I think a double commentary happening beyond the wise son is on one side of the frame, the wicked son is on the other side of the frame. And what’s happening is almost as though the four people in the middle, the father, the mother, the simple son and son who doesn’t ask are being pulled to either extreme by the two poles, which are the wise son and the wicked son.
Geoffrey Stern 13:53
What’s fascinating and I should have started by saying this that, you know, you could easily go into a default reflex and say that the Haggadah is trying to emphasize the divisions, but the actual way that it starts is בָּרוּךְ הַמָּקוֹם, בָּרוּךְ הוּא, בָּרוּךְ שֶׁנָּתַן תּוֹרָה לְעַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל . You’d think that the implicit message is that God is this place, and that everybody has a place in that place, and the Torah was given to all of Israel. So there is this kind of tension between whether it’s creating division, or whether it’s trying to maybe make the tent larger, that were all included. Getting back to your comments. I think pictorially it really focuses on an aspect of the Haggadah itself, that is troubling, because as you know, the rasha, the evil son says what does this all mean to you? He says מָה הָעֲבוֹדָה הַזּאֹת לָכֶם . And by saying “to you”, he does the worst crime there is. And in the picture, he’s cocking himself on the chair and leaning away, leaning out as opposed to leaning in. He’s excluding himself from Klal Yisrael. He’s שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל כָּפַר בְּעִקָּר . But if you look at the wise son, it also says, what are the Mishpatim.. אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם , you and I look at that picture. And I see both the wise son and the evil son are segregated, they’re away. And I think that is kind of fascinating. We’re going to move on, but it just shows you how much there is inside of a picture.
Avraham Bronstein 15:54
Before we move ahead. By the way, I want to make one more point which just occurred to me as you were talking about בָּרוּךְ הַמָּקוֹם God making place for everybody. Right? You were talking about already two different paradigms for making the divisions between people at the Seder. One is this paradigm of the four sons. And the other one is this paradigm of seeing yourself as though you’re leaving Egypt, meaning when it comes to sitting at the Seder, when it comes to understanding the story of the Exodus, see yourself as an Israelite, but not as Pharaoh not as an Egyptian. And there’s two different ways of breaking people up, you can break people up and say, We’re the Israelites, you’re the Egyptians, whoever they are. Or you can say, you know, we’re the wise son, you’re the wicked son, as it were. It’s interesting, the way that you’re framing it. You’re saying that under the paradigm of the sons, they’re all around the table in some context, if you’re saying that the paradigm, you’re using is Israelites versus Egyptians, then it’s one or the other. They’re both not in the same place.
Geoffrey Stern 17:00
I’m gonna skip around, but there is a woodcut picture. Where the wicked son is a soldier in the Prussian uniform with a spiked helmet. And clearly, he’s not simply rejecting Judaism. He’s almost what in modern Hebrew would be called a Boged, he he’s outside, he’s the other. He’s crossed the line. I mean, it’s so fascinating, especially for me when I grew up, and all I focused on was different children pedagogically, and aren’t they all good. But the Haggadot that we’re focused on and we’ve hand-picked them are really political in nature. They’re talking about life choices. There’s one that shows faces of different children with different emotional responses. And that’s more in line I think, with the way I grew up looking at the four children. But to me, the most fascinating one is the kibbutz Haggadah, because in the kibbutz Haggadah, the Hacham, is dressed in working clothes, and he is the one who is building the land, the Rasha is the bourgeoisie, and here is where the sense of how knowledgeable that non-religious kibbutzniks were of their tradition, because he says, What is this avoda to you? And avodat normally means ritual service. But I believe that the kibbutzniks was saying ma avodat What is this labor of the land and he’s gazing at a shovel that is standing next to a guard tower. It’s so clear that now we have flipped the paradigm we’re in so many of those four children or four sons, the one who would wear blue jeans and be outside in the fields would be considered a Sheigitz; he’s not learning and here all of a sudden he is the Hacham and the Rasha is the one who is rejecting avodah; the working of the land. And then of course the other fascinating one is the שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל , the one who does not know how to ask and he is depicted as a Jew, it’s not altogether clear whether he’s an oriental Jew or an Ashkenazi Jew. He has pe’ot and it’s looking at the religious community already. Now we’ve really flipped and it’s the religious community who is clueless is the best word that I can say. Very fascinating stuff how the four sons were used in different Haggadot at different times to make a statement about what our values are.
Avraham Bronstein 20:23
For sure, right, any other Haggadah that you would think of that comes from a more religious context. The son with the pe’ot, with the underside curls, the rabbinic looking one would be the Chacham, right, the wise son who really gets what’s going on. And in this version, specifically, he’s the one who really has no idea what’s going on. He’s completely removed from all the larger conversations that are happening. The other thing that I was thinking about when I saw this one is the very motto of the religious Zionist Movement of B’nai Akiva is Torah V’avodah. Right. It’s that combination of working the land and building the land coming from a religious mentality. And when the Rasha right the businessman, the bourgeoisie, is looking up at him saying מָה הָעֲבוֹדָה הַזּאֹת לָכֶם obviously the Rasha rejects the Torah. That goes without saying; he’s a secular Jew. He’s a secular Israeli, but he’s also rejecting the Avodah; the service to the country, the way that the religious Zionist would understand that.
Geoffrey Stern 21:28
So I had started collecting kibbutz Haggadot about 5, 10 years ago, because I really feel that the generation of the founders of the State of Israel was so unique in terms of, we had educated, knowledgeable, literate Jews, who could speak the language of the Haggadah, still, and therefore could translate it in a way that this picture does. And the nuances of מָה הָעֲבוֹדָה , What does this labor mean to you? And I think that one of the challenges that we have in modern day Israel, I intimated in the beginning, what would the Haggadah of those who are arguing about issues today in the State of Israel, what would that Haggadah look like? And I think it’s a, it’s a kind of a cry in the dark, because unfortunately, we don’t necessarily live in a society that still converses and discourses on this amazing platform of 2,000 years that Jews have used to express the emotions and the ideology of the moment. But one of the Haggadot that I collected was a Haggadot written in the 70s. It’s called the Israeli Black Panthers. Haggadah, it’s literally on mimeograph sheets. It was written over a week or two period. And that has to be inspiration. We have a week or two to Passover. So, if you live in Israel, and you’re listening to this podcast, there’s still time! But many people are talking about the current conflict as really between those in Israel, who feel disenfranchised, who feel left out, and the elite, and this is what they wrote in their Haggadah. They didn’t have four children. And by the way, Golda [Meir] was the pharaoh in their Haggadah, and they said, Golda speaks of two classes, one rich and one poor, one Ashkenazi, and even one Safadi, the rich man, what does he say? What is it to them these poor people that rise against the government who are arguing and making statements give us work give us education, housing and equal rights. Let them come to me and I will give them work in construction for 30 lirot a day. That is what the savior of the Mizrahim, Rabbi Haim Hefer, said. And the poor man, what does he say? “I did not ask for a protektzia job nor did I rise up against the government. And if Yiddish is a language that I cannot speak, then I am swiftly told off with a kick.” and the Ashkenazi what does he say? It goes on and on. They are translating the spirit of Avdut; of servitude that they are feeling in their day. And they are translating it using the language, the vocabulary of the Haggadah. So, Rabbi, I’d love you to comment on both the format of the message and the content of the message.
Avraham Bronstein 24:45
So first, I have to say that this Haggadah is also available in English, the New Israel Fund, last year, sponsored English translation of this that was edited by Libby Lenkinski. It’s available for purchase in the states also, it’s such an incredible, fascinating historical artifact. I didn’t know anything about the Israeli Black Panther Party of the late 60s and 70s. But it’s such an incredible just time-capsule figuring out like what was going on beneath the surface of Israeli society at that time. To me it was especially powerful because like I was saying before, whenever I think about the story of the Exodus, or I teach the story of the Exodus, I’m always taking the position or taking the point of view of those who are leaving Egypt, right the Israelites, it would be incredibly mind bending, for me to be at a Seder, and to have somebody telling me, you know, actually, in the story that we’re living nowadays, you’re not the Israelites, you’re actually the Pharaoh. And we’re the Israelites who are struggling against you. And it’s such an incredible thing to have to come to grips with.
Geoffrey Stern 25:59
So the moment that they wrote their Haggadah was 25 years in to the State of Israel. And I think what happened it was interrupted by the Yom Kippur War. But I think you need to read the Haggadah in many ways to understand a little bit of what’s going on in Israel today. Which means that these messages these Haggadot, that talked at pivotal moments in our history, they’re evergreen. We need to learn from those lessons. There’s another Haggadah that I quote, which was written at another pivotal moment. It’s the Survivors Haggadah, it was the first Haggadah used and written in the DP Camps after the Holocaust. And there is amazing stuff in there where they talk about being in the DP camps, and shelichim messengers from Israel coming to them and basically trying to induct them into the different tribes that were happening in Israel. “Now that the Saved Remnant is redeemed, the orphaned children of Israel are taken in. Each group of the Remnant makes a claim on the children and is envious of other groups on their account, because each group wants to increase its number. And while the children of Israel are being collected like abandoned eggs, the contention increases as each group tries to pull them its way. The children cannot withstand the many enticements, promises, and trials, such that some children go this way and some another. And it so happens that the non-Orthodox snatch the children of the Orthodox, and the Orthodox snatch the children of the non-Orthodox. And each and every group has its own school where children learn Torah. And after they study for a time, they grow clever; and a child behaves like a man of seventy who has opinions about how the world should be run, or how or when to settle the [Promised] Land and manage affairs of state. The children argue, and all are eager to advance their own positions and views, so that brothers are set apart, unable to agree on the question of the State [of Israel], unable to sit peacefully together.” I mean, it goes on and on, “Which group do you belong to? But the survivors do not understand them and wonder at the question. And even members of the [Jewish] Brigade in Italy reply: What is the meaning of this? Are we not, all of us, Israel? The shelichim say: You must have been sleeping for seventy years, because the unity of Israel is a fable. It’s no longer possible; each person must join a group. The remnants answer: But was not all of Israel slaughtered together? Is not all of Israel to rebuild the land together? The shelichim say: The unity of Israel is a fable. The land of Israel is being built by different factions.” I really encourage you to go to the source sheet, or better yet, as the Rabbi said buy the Israeli Black Panther Haggadah and the Survivors Haggadah, , We’re talking after the Holocaust, there’s no honeymoon period. It’s a sobering moment. It’s a humbling moment, for those of us who like to believe in Klad Yisroel. And maybe it makes you look back and when we left [Egypt], they were talking about the Erev Rav [The mixed Multitude]. There’s always been these segmentations. And maybe that is the genius of the Haggadah, that it doesn’t whitewash over these divisions. It actually emphasizes them. In a sense, it’s inviting us to try to address them.
Avraham Bronstein 29:35
Well, that’s the last paragraph of this selection that you put on the sheet, right? “The emissaries say: That is impossible, the reality of Israel requires it. One could argue: This rivalry is like a rivulet; just as the rivulet flows down, riving the ground and irrigating it to make it fertile, so does division divide Israel and bestow blessings on it. For it prepares the ground for all kinds of beliefs, so that people can go and die for the tip of every letter in their own torah. Thus rivalry breeds strength which increases the might of Israel.” .. meaning, right, it’s good to have the wicked son at the table in the matter who you think the wicked son is, because the interplay between the people at the table shouting at each other at the tops of their lungs, that’s where the strength comes from.
Geoffrey Stern 30:25
You know, I have a bunch of different Haggadot that I’ve quoted, and one that just resonated with me based on what you were saying. And based kind of on my implicit question about all of this division, there was a Seder made by really, the Jewish Hipppies on the forefront of the 60s and of universalism, and, it was on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. And it’s in the notes, I want to read from it a little bit, because it’s kind of I think it addresses the fact that the Haggadah is anything but a universalistic document. It’s a particular document. So, it says “I believe in liberation for everyone. But why must I believe in it as a Jew? I want to believe in it as a human being. I don’t want a Jewish celebration of liberation. I just want people to be people and to be free. That’s a real question. Answer that one!” and the answer is based and this comes out in many of the kibbutzim Haggadot, where they quote poems from Bialik, and this quote, Y. L. Peretz , a Yiddish writer, and this is what they quote to answer the question, Don’t assume you are fulfilling your obligation by working only for the greater entity, for so-called humanity-at-large. Humanity-at-large is an abstraction. On the world stage today are individual groups, distinct peoples, differing cultures…. We too hope for a common humanity, but we shall never achieve it by destroying unique languages, or by annihilating separate peoples, or by cutting down cultures…. We have not endured these thousands of years in order now to forget our way of life. We wish to continue it, so that we may later unite with the company of mankind as equal partners…. So it’s almost finding the universal in the particular rather than having this abstract love of humanity at-large, which means nothing. But I think maybe that is part of the answer of what the Haggadah is doing. It is not focused on the universal it might say Baruch HaMakom, but then it gets into the particulars that divide each of us. And maybe what it’s saying is it’s that mosaic that different; this Shivim Panim L’Torah (Seventy Faces of the Torah) that Elu V’elu (This and this is the word of the Living God) , you need that divergence. And maybe that’s part of the solution in Israel today. And maybe that’s part of the Haggadah that needs to be written. I don’t know.
Avraham Bronstein 33:20
That’s very, very beautifully put. It’s interesting, thinking about the lines that you’re putting down right now. Right? How people kind of sort themselves into tribes that way and the strength, the dynamism comes from the interplay between those, right? Yeah, you can imagine nowadays, thinking about the Black Panthers, in Israel in the 70s, or different aspects or different tribes within the larger protest movements in Israel today, or even different tribes within the government establishment in Israel today within the majority. It’s not by any means a homogenous group that’s running the government and pushing the various proposals down, either. How do they see themselves? Are they all the Hacham in their particular Haggadah? Or do some people really self-identify as the Rasha, but for productive ends?
Geoffrey Stern 34:16
You know, we typically keep the podcast to half an hour we’re reading over but as a studying the Haggadah that we should (continue all night), I’d like to focus on two other areas that there has been such a rich culture of reinterpretation. One of them is the MaNishTana; the four questions and I couldn’t find it, Rabbi, maybe you can help me. I do know that our four questions are not exactly like the four questions of the Mishnah because we don’t ask a question about why tonight we eat it roasted meat because we aren’t eating roasted meat. But I thought somewhere it says Ke’ha “like these (questions) you should ask questions like these, and either there is a rabbinic text along that lines, or it was understood that these questions are only representative of the types of questions that could be asked. So if we go to the Black Panther Haggadah, it says, But what makes this night different from all other nights? That on every other night we barely eat bread and water, And on this night we don’t even have matzah and water. That on every other night we eat only vegetables. And on this night the government treats us like animals. That on every other night we all shiver from the cold²6 And on this night our sadness is clear for all to behold. That on every other night we sleep on the floor. And that’s a chutzpah that the Israeli government should abhor. . So, the translator did a very good job of translating the lyricism
Avraham Bronstein 35:57
They rhymed it. And what’s so subversive about that is what the Manish Tana is basically saying their MaNishtana is that tonight isn’t different from every other night tonight is just the night that you’re noticing what we’ve been noticing the entire time.
Geoffrey Stern 36:10
Absolutely. The contrast to that. And there have been a so many satirical treatments (of the Haggadah in general and the Manishtana in particular) . Israel has a program similar to Saturday Night Live. That is called Eretz N’hederet, and you could almost see them rewriting the Haggadah in a skit, but in the kibbutzim Haggadot. They almost have one universal line, which is so wonderful, and it’s positive. It says how is this night different from all other nights? Because on all other nights, it says, שבכל הלילו שולחן-הורים לחוד ושולחן-בנים לחוד, הלילה הזה כולנו מסובין that and all other nights the grown-ups eat on one area, and the children who were brought up in their own socialistic kind of utopian child rearing dormitories that many people have complained about, in retrospect, they were celebrating the were writing the kibbutz into the Haggadah, and we might do another episode next week about how the kibbutzim; rich in understanding of Jewish tradition, were able to modify the Haggadah and use it as a positive. A place to explain what the “New Jew” or New Judaism was. One of the Haggadot that I have is, in the in the notes, it was written in 1940, in a kibbutz and if you look up 1940 We’re talking, after Kristallnacht, before the beginning of World War Two, and it’s just full of despair. And it talks about a “How is this night different from all other nights? Also this year we sit to celebrate and to remember the Exodus from Egypt, the Exodus from Slavery to Freedom, but has this pursued depressed nation actually gone from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light also in our generation. What can we tell? On this day – a day that has never been worse than the day we went into exile, a day of incessant fears and distrust in life for the rest of what is found, a day that is all like a long, similar sacrifice. On this day – a day that is an eye for an eye we see all the decay of the seed of Abraham” it’s a lament. And I do think that this concept of what is new, what is different, was definitely something that was picked up upon either to celebrate what was different in the case of the kibbutzim Haggadot or to decry the current situation where nothing has changed or things have gotten worse. I think the Haggadah is an amazing vehicle for having that cry of Vayikra. If Hinneni is the Jewish response, I think Vayikra is the challenge. And I think that the Haggadah in many respects, is this wonderful 2,000 year old platform for Jews to express the moment; their situation, their fears, their ideals, their aspirations. And from that perspective, it makes it a more unique to document than we already knew that it was.
Avraham Bronstein 39:35
I think that’s, that’s very, very, very well put. And I think what you just cited from the 1940 Haggadah is basically saying it’s this desire to keep seeing it in the present as opposed to seeing the Exodus as something which only happened in the past. The contrast between the present and the past is so strong there.
Geoffrey Stern 39:54
I’ll close with the sense that what makes the Haggadah so special is it doesn’t have the answers. It doesn’t even have all the questions. But it is a place for us to bare our souls and to bare the reality. And maybe that’s the best place to begin to, to rebuild. And I really wish that there were learned scholars. learned, rich Jewishly embodied Jews who in our generation could pick up the torch and write a Haggadah for our Seder this year that really talked about the divisions within us. Part of it will be highlighting those divisions. But I think by doing that part of it potentially can maybe heal those divisions, I don’t know. But I do know that we need, we need Pesach. Pesach was never easy. leaving Egypt is never easy. We will survive. But we are in a challenging moment in our history.
Avraham Bronstein 41:00
It’s keeping everyone around the table, even if you’re arguing with each other. But at least your all around the table. I’m reminded of that famous teaching or statement attributed to the Lubavitcher Rebbe who’s always talked about the fifth son who’s not even at the table. It’s worth having the four sons around the table from their different perspectives, yelling and screaming at each other, or threatening to exclude each other. But they’re all there. And I think if you’re thinking about Israel today, one of the things you can certainly say that maybe you couldn’t have said, you know, maybe eight or 10 years ago is that everybody is activated. Everybody’s energized. Everybody is certainly there making their opinions heard. And maybe the entire country is kind of this very loud, raucous Seder table at this point.
Geoffrey Stern 41:47
Well, thank you so much. Thank you. It was an absolute pleasure learning with you Avraham and I wish you a Pesach Sameach. Let’s do this again. I wish everybody who’s listening Shabbat Shalom, and a Pesach Sameach,
Avraham Bronstein 42:02
Geoffrey, thank you so much. Shabbat Shalom. Hag Kasher V’Sameach; this was really a pleasure.
Geoffrey Stern 42:07
Absolutely. Thank you so much for joining
Sefaria Source Sheet: https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/475511
Listen to last years episode: Oops I did it again