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Sometimes we are slaves to our own minds and culture

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Traditionally sung by the youngest person at the seder table, The Four Questions ‘Mah Nishtanah’ are featured prominently in most Passover Haggadahs and come early in the Maggid section. (Screencap: myjewishlearning.com)

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On re-reading the Artscroll edition of the Haggadah a week ago, I noticed that it prominently emphasized that the Exodus story is for both adults and for their children.

The Introduction to the Haggadah declares:  “… the exodus represented a two-fold liberation: from physical enslavement and from spiritual degradation.”  It later says – “… the Seder night is the time to relate to our children —from the wisest to the simplest – encouraging them to ask, inquire, challenge, learn; for by doing so can they become part of Jewish history and make it part of their own personal experience and perspective of the world.”

My question is: Does the Passover ceremony and evening do this for our kids?

The ceremony works well, in that the kids look for the afikoman, get presents, and read the 4 questions; but I don’t think it works for their understanding of the full meaning of freedom. In that, I think it is an opportunity missed. 

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First, the Haggadah talks about freedom from slavery. It is difficult or perhaps impossible for a child brought up in Canada to really understand the concept and its physical and mental implications. I was 60 when I first met a former African child slave and listened to his story. I have more recently met Yazidis who were slaves of ISIS. However it is still a concept that is difficult for me.

I think it must be more difficult for children to understand the full meaning and implications of “We were slaves in Egypt.” It needs more explanation.

Similarly asking Di Fir Kashes – the 4 questions – is important for kids, but it is not enough. The text deals with the wise, wicked, simple, and “unable to ask” sons. It omits daughters completely and does not advise average kids, who, after all, are the majority of kids at a seder table.

The 4 questions then deal with technical questions or analysis, not with what really interests and is important to children.

The questions, which must be age appropriate, might include, “what is my purpose in life, how do I become fit and healthy, what skills do I need, what job interests me, who am I, how do I develop commitment and drive, how do I become a mensch, and of course, if not now, when; if I am not for myself who will be for me; and if not now, when?” 

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Then there are the direct freedom questions: Will being myself and doing or not doing certain things (like becoming a doctor or a lawyer), give me a personal sense of freedom that I wouldn’t have if I followed my parents and my cultures wishes? Am I being brainwashed by my parents, or my culture into losing my personal freedom to be who I should be?

A mild type of slavery is included in a 9-5 disliked job. We should try to stop this happening to our children and our children should stop this from happening to themselves. Sometimes we are slaves to our own minds and culture or of course to addictions.

In conclusion, for us adults, there are many freedoms that we are seeking when we leave our Egypt – freedom of association, of belief, of speech, of religion, of movement, of education, etc. These freedoms which we have here in Canada should be mentioned and appreciated with a feeling of gratitude.

It is not dayenu, not sufficient to talk about freedom from slavery. Other freedoms, both for adults and children, should be considered and discussed.

Jonathan Usher was born in Montreal. He graduated from Queen’s Law School in 1963 and moved to Toronto where he has lived since. In the past 20 years of retirement he has become a very prolific and published letter-to-the-editor writer and conservative, social iconoclast.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

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