Torah Tidbits

31 August 2014 / 5 Elul 5774
Issue 1039
Shabbat Parshat Tzav-Hagadol-Shmini
March 21, 2013

Lead Tidbit

Applying Seder Lessons

Two personal anecdotes - think about them and you’ll probably come up with your own.
Years ago in my teaching days at YCQ, there was a required teachers’ seminar which included a model lesson from one of the attendees on how to teach a particular subject in social studies. My first reaction was negative. I taught Jewish Studies, math and science - why should I have to sit through a lesson out of my range of topics.
As it turned out, it was a positive experience because it taught me how to teach some of my own subjects. Borrow and modify and the lesson became perfectly suitable for me.
Second experience. First night of Sukkot way back when my eldest daughter (whose eldest is entering the yoke of mitzvot) was still in a high-chair. She looked around the Sukka, walls and s’chach, giggled and asked why we were eating in the Sukka instead of the diningroom. Sounded like MA NISHTANA to me. But it wasn’t Seder night?
Somewhere in those two anecdotes lies the point of this Lead Tidbit.
As different as Seder night is from all other nights, it is also a model lesson to teach us how to teach and answer the questions of our children, grandchildren, students, friends - anyone’s questions - any time and any place.
We learn that the best method of teaching and transmitting our Tradition and customs, Torah knowledge and general knowledge is via answers to questions. We learn that answers must be custom-tailored to the level and interest of the questioner. We learn that not everyone is capable of asking, so we must prompt them and draw out questions. And then proceed to give meaningful answers.
It isn’t just the Q&A method which we learn from the Seder experience.
In every single generation a person must see things as if he himself left Egypt. That’s all? Definitely not. This dictum of the Hagada applies to a wide variety of things. We need to personalize and internalize not just the Exodus experience, but every episode of Jewish History, from the Torah, through Tanach, through the generations, until this very day.
It’s not just imagining yourself in a certain situation. We must also try to imagine how we would have behaved in those situations. Each person must ask himself - and teach his children the same - Would I have stood up to protest the Golden Calf? Whose side would I have taken - the 10 Meraglim or Kalev and Yehoshua? And on and on and on.
We cannot know for sure the answers to many of these ponderings, but we can look into ourselves and see if we have the convictions and commit- ment required to behave a certain way. And if we suspect that we are lacking - then we have an agenda to address. Personal, family-wise, communal.
Part of the validity of B’CHOR DOR VADOR is that as much as things change, people are people. We need to continuously fine-tune our religious, moral, and social selves to improve ourselves and those we are in contact with. We do this well and G-d’s promises will be realized for us.

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