Friday, April 19, 2019

Bread of Affliction

Going through one of my drawers I found a Jerusalem Post article written by Herb Keinon from Friday, March 30th, 2001. Even though reality has changed in the last eighteen years I still find the words  meaningful.

It's a holiday directed towards children, this upcoming Pesach of ours. Or at least the Seder is. All is organized, so that the children will ask, wonder, inquire.

Why do we lean? Why do we dip? Why the matza? Why the bitter herbs? Why the salty eggs? Why so much wine? Why, why, why?

The more kids ask, the more the parents kvell. Nothing like an inquisitive kid.

But this past week, in many, many homes around the country, parents were faced with an inquisitiveness from their children that they would have given the world to be without.

The reality in this country is difficult enough as it is. It becomes downright heart-aching when your children-the ones you try to keep in a rainbow colored, secure, fairy-tale world of peace and harmony-begin asking questions like "Why does God create terrorists?' or "Is it better to be dead or critically injured?" or "How can I ensure that the Arabs don't come and get me?" or "How can we stay safe?'

These are questions that twist the heart, that create envy of the relatives abroad whose kids simply don't have those concerns. These are questions born of talk among kids in preschool of 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass shot in the head by sniper fire; born of a child's long-awaited appointment in Jerusalem cancelled because a blown-up bus blocked a key intersection into the city; born of the afternoon children's television  programming superseded by a live report from the scene of the bombing. 

"What normal eight-year-old has these concerns, these thoughts, these questions?" a friend wonders out loud. My God, shouldn't kids just be worrying about tests, and girlfriends,  Pokemon
and baseball cards?

Ah, elusive normalcy.

I recently spoke to a Jewish high school abroad, and afterward a precarious ninth grader came up and said she doesn't understand how parents can live in an area that places their children in danger.

"It's one things for kids to have to live their parent's dreams," she said. "It's another thing for the kids to have to die for them."

Or, as one of my own  kids understandably asked this week, "Why do we live here?"

Of all the questions, that is the only one to which I can even venture an answer. I don't know why God creates terrorists, or whether it is better to be dead or critically injured, or how to stay safe. Why we live here, however I know.

"This is the bread of affliction, which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt," opens the Haggada that we will read next week. "Now we are here; next year may we be in the Land of Israel."

And then it closes with, "Next year in Jerusalem." That, simply put, is why we're here.

As to why this is all happening, the Haggada also ventures a suggestion - perhaps not as rational as all the political, ideological, geographic and demographic reasons we are drowning in, but one I will offer my children as an answer around the Seder table, if not before.

"In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us," the Hagagada reads. "But the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hands."

May it be His will.

May this Pesach herald true freedom for all

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