Jewish National Fund - We Only Have ONE ISRAEL

Everyone All At Once

by Maurice Lamm

There are subliminal messages being sent to us by Judaism that people do not detect because they look at this profound and complex faith superficially, as they would a marquis, and cannot detect that a notice from the sub-vaults of the Jewish soul is being flashed at all.

A prime example of such a subliminal message is one sent by the Pesach Seder. The Seder says, simply and elegantly: invite every single Jew. No one is to be left outside. Everyone who is Jewish - despite social prejudices, Halakhic differences, and even people who are outright sinners - must come in and join us.

Everyone must be inside, participating in this most important festivity of the year. The Seder is a Seder of inclusion. There is no doubt about that. Today, we have experts in exclusion and seclusion and preclusion, but no inclusion.

Look at that signals and pull them together and you will get a message that is not new, but is unmistakable:

Women are not obligated to perform mitzvot that are strictly time-oriented. Pesach would be an example of that exemption. But no, the Rabbis said, the Seder is all-inclusive. Women were redeemed from Egypt just as men. They are spiritually no different; they, too, should drink the four cups of wine, no gender gap here.

I remember speaking with the Bobover Rebbe, a renowned Hasidic Rebbe of advanced age and wisdom. He told me that he conducts a very large Seder at home and that all family and guests eat from paper plates. At the Seder! "Women should not be slaves when they are celebrating freedom!" he said.

Minors are traditionally exempted from the requirements that adult men and women have because they have not matured to the level of performing religious acts. Not now. The Seder is the prime moment in the year, in all of Jewish history, when parents must ceremoniously speak to the next generation, to focus on them in order to fulfill the mitzvah of telling the next generation the Exodus story, Sippur Yetzi'at Mitzrayim.

The social and intellectual elite have no standing on this holiday. We are all invited, equally, joyously, without being stratified. The disadvantaged, the dispossessed, and the deprived, are invited formally, halakhically, ceremoniously, at the beginning of every Seder. Kohanim and Israelites are equally represented by hard matzoh.

The Chacham is one of the four sons, together with the intellectually challenged person who doesn't know enough to ask. And the Rasha, the evil son, is welcomed to the Seder. No matter you disagree. Sure, you do. But you welcome him to the Seder. He, too, is a son of our people. And note this: the great Moses who himself executed the Exodus, is not mentioned by name. Who can sit at the same table with him? Tonight, he is one of us, not the celebrated Prophet. There is no elitism when we are being redeemed by the Creator.

And Elijah is here too. Imagine that wild-eyed, eremitic, spiritual, apparition mingling with out guests as we invite him in. Welcome Rebbe. Everyone is here.

It is not alone, the Halakha that dictates this inclusiveness. Not only is it the reference to all our people equally meriting leaving Egypt that backs it up, it is the clear mandate of our history in every age. It is a night to remember - this Pesach Seder, at which we think we're in for a good time.

It is a night, as we tell old Elijah, when we stand arm-in-arm against that pack of wolves which still howls in Russia, in Poland, in Gaza, and under the skin of a lot of neighbors. The Seder, plagued always by its proximity to Easter, reminds us of when, routinely and always equally, we were soaked with blood libels, and hanged by accusations that we killed a messiah. On this night we circle the wagons. We unite, embrace, love each other, and we stand as one at the Seder as the Lord watches closely over us all under his Divine umbrella, Lail Shimurim.

This is the message of history that is trying to get through. We stood together then; we will stand together now.

Come in everyone. All at once, say: Kol Dichfin Yese Veyechol, All who want, come in and eat.

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