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In Recognition Of
Aish Hatorah
- Reconnecting Jews To Their Heritage

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Preserving a near-lost legacy and heritage.
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The Jewish Position


Selected position papers, perspectives, and insights from the Torah perspective.

Looking Doctor Death In The Eye
Bringing Wall Street Wisdom To the Quest for Continuity
Unorthodox Headline Wreaks Havoc!
Enough Already! We're FAMILY -- Fights and All
Jewish Line-Drawings
The Man On The Bima

Looking Doctor Death In The Eye

A Shafran

Charges of murder are now pending against Dr. Jack Kevorkian, whose fascination with death has progressed from attempts to capture its image on canvas to assisting others in effecting their own demises to, it is now charged, the actual killing of at least one unfortunate man.

With a television program's airing last month of a videotape that Kevorkian made of himself administering a lethal injection to a consenting victim of a debilitating disease, even some supporters of the latest in the litany of American rights -- the right "to die" -- have turned on Kevorkian, if not on his cause.

The New York Times, for example, which euphemistically advocates "more humane policies for easing the last days of the terminally ill," takes the doctor to task for "disrupting the important debate over physician-assisted suicide" with his "ghoulish stunts," and for overlooking the "difference between providing the means of death and actually administering the dose."

Thus the Times regards the most visible advocate of legalized physician-assisted suicide as but a flawed symbol for a worthy cause. More perceptive observers, though, might not be blamed for feeling that, quite the contrary, Kevorkian is quite the perfect metaphor for his mission. For the slippery nature of his personal slope is but a dark reflection of what is likely in store should physician-assisted suicide ever become legal. We might all do well to look Dr. Death squarely in the eye, and be forewarned.

Much of the high-minded rhetoric -- about things like pain-alleviation and "quality of life" -- employed by proponents of legalized physician-assisted suicide is undoubtedly rooted in sincere human concern. But it is not their motivation but the course of the trail they would blaze that must concern us all.

Should the role of doctors metamorphose from prolongers of life to agents of its termination, the door will be swung open wide for further examples of what the attorney responsible for Dr. Kevorkian's prosecution has called his "nonchalant, callous, businesslike approach involving the death of a person for the purpose of satisfying an attention-starved ego." Other motivations, it can sadly but safely be assumed, less pathological but equally lethal, will likewise emerge.

The philosophical foundation-stones for the intensified devaluation of human life are already being carefully laid.

While universities are hardly the only molders of the public mind, they are certainly prime among them. Thus it is of more than passing interest that the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University's Center for Human Values, Peter Singer, has proposed the termination (even without niceties like consent) of what he calls "miserable beings" -- people whose lives he deems devoid of pleasure. His support of involuntary euthanasia and infanticide is hardly endorsed by most academicians, but the expansion of once-fringe ideas is precisely what slippery slopes are all about.

Professor Singer promotes the rejection of "doctrines about the sanctity of human life." Once society jettisons such claptrap, he predicts, it will be "the refusal to accept killing that, in some cases, [will be] horrific."

Nor are such attitudes limited to academia. An Israeli artist, Uri Lifschitz, was recently quoted as having opined that society's time and energy should "be directed toward improving the race, not nurturing the handicapped."

"Those who are incapable of taking care of their needs," he pronounced, "should die of hunger because they are useless."

At present such views are not mainstream, but they are clearly in the current of public discourse. And even these days, with widespread public aversion for outright euthanasia, doctors report that both assisted suicide and euthanasia occur in American hospitals much more frequently than most of us realize.

One can only imagine what will happen if the termination of life were given the imprimatur of legality.

And so, in at least one sense, we are probably quite fortunate to have Dr. Kevorkian as the poster boy for assisted suicide.

For he serves, in the end, as a most poignant and morbidly picturesque reminder of precisely where Western society may well be headed.


Bringing Wall Street Wisdom To the Quest for Continuity

A. Shafran

An ambitious program to send any willing Jew in the world between the ages of 15 and 26 to Israel for ten days was recently put before the public eye. The "Birthright Israel" plan, intended to help fuel Jewish identity and continuity, is impressive, to be sure. And expensive; it is expected to cost $300 million over five years, a sum that will be initially financed by the Israeli government, a group of North American Jewish philanthropists and the Council of Jewish Federations.

Only a truly hardened cynic could dismiss so well-intentioned an effort out of hand, yet the gnawing sound you hear is the suspicion that free tours of Israel may prove less effective than expected, or even, G-d forbid, counterproductive.

Many are the tales, to be sure, of confused or uncommitted Jews who came to discover their roots and their lives' direction in the Holy Land, whose very atmosphere, the Talmud teaches us after all, is a catalyst to wisdom. But there is also much in Israel, especially these days, that could conceivably have a less than salubrious effect on unguided Jewish souls.

The plan, after all, will be offering, according to The New York Times, "kibbutz trips, archeological trips, hiking treks, ecological journeys and historical trips" -- fare that could just as easily disillusion young visitors as inspire them. The kibbutz movement has hardly been a successful engine of Jewish (or even kibbutz) continuity; hiking trails in Israel may not always compete favorably with the Appalachian Trail -- and what is an "ecological trip" anyway? Historical tours might indeed raise some consciousnesses, but that would largely depend on what elements of Jewish history would be presented, and from what perspective.

The Jewish State as the Jewish Faith

Michael H. Steinhardt, the successful Wall Street money manager who, along with Seagram Company chairman Charles R. Bronfman, is initiating the program, feels that association with Israel is the ultimate goal. "Israel has frankly... for much of my life," he told The Times, "been a substitute for [Jewish] theology."

Leaving entirely aside the question of why anyone would deem the Jewish religious heritage in need of a substitute, there can be little doubt that, for better or worse, the Jewish State is clearly less inspiring today to many Jews than it was during the heady days of the 1960s.

Those, for instance, who found it relatively easy to discern forces of good and of evil when a host of Arab nations ruthlessly threatened Israel more than three decades ago are less likely to perceive the persistence of that threat today. Things like Yassir Arafat's astonishing ability to preach coexistence and peace to some audiences (even as he preaches entirely diametric ideals to others) and the press's incessant portrayal of Israel as intransigent, and worse, make it even harder to see things as they once were so clearly perceived by so many, like the younger Mr. Steinhardt.

Even many of those who may once have reveled in the romantic "my might and the strength of my hand" notion of temporal Jewish assertion of power and right to the Jewish land have become disillusioned of late with the rude intrusion of geopolitical realities on the Zionist dream. Israel's leaders, once effectively worshipped in this camp, are often perceived as the Jewish enemy. These days, to recast a famous expression, it is hard to be a secular Zionist.

Low Aspirations

An unintentionally depressing comparison, as it happens, was employed by Mr. Steinhardt himself, in an interview with a reporter for The Forward. He expressed his hope, the weekly reported, that the program will achieve success and establish a tradition even "perhaps analogous to [the] bar mitzvah."

The comparison bears reflection. In popular American culture, the bar mitzvah celebration has sadly but undeniably come to be associated not with the commencement of commitment but with its smothering. What once heralded (and for some still heralds) a life of intense Jewish identity has devolved, in so much of the Jewish community, into a celebration of teen-agerhood, a vehicle for parental excess, a showcase for disk-jockeys and movie themes. It would be superfluous (not to mention depressing) to detail here the "state of the contemporary American bar mitzvah," but the picture, most of us know, is not a pretty one.

Thus, ironically, should the "Birthright Israel" plan live up to the hope for it Mr. Steinhardt expressed (though did not likely intend), it will not only fail to solidify Jewish continuity but become just another means for Jews to embrace materialism and what passes for popular culture in modern times.

Belaboring The Obvious

"Birthright Israel" is a good, if imperfect, idea, and its originators deserve credit for putting forth any plan -- not to mention the considerable funds they have pledged -- to intensify Jewish identity and commitment. Were the program amended, though, to maximize the Jewish impact of the gift it offers Diaspora Jews -- were it, say to provide them ten days (or even two of the ten) in an Israeli yeshiva catering to those from overseas or in an adult beginner's program sponsored by an outreach institute -- it might well be a truly giant step in the right direction. Surely no objective observer would deny that Torah-study is an integral part of the contemporary Israeli scene.

Might there even, though, be shorter and surer roads, even in the Diaspora, to the goal of connecting Jews to other Jews and to Judaism? Like, for instance, the road Jews traveled for the nearly 2000 years during which visiting or settling in Eretz Yisroel was hardly an option. The very same road, as it happens, that still remains the most effective means of ensuring Jewish identity, praxis and life: a true, traditional Jewish education for every precious Jewish child. Every study of Jewish continuity, after all, has identified Jewish education as the most potent predictor of future Jewish identity and Jewish living; the more years of Jewish education -- and the more traditional the curriculum -- the stronger the resultant bond with the Jewish people and faith.

So many Jewish day schools and yeshivos are suffering economically, and so many Jewish parents are unable to afford them. For lack of nothing more than dollars, priceless Jewish souls -- from a wide assortment of Jewish backgrounds -- are being denied the opportunity to learn to read Hebrew, to study Torah, to hear what Shabbos is like. There can be little doubt that scholarships to help present Jewish children with their spiritual heritage could deeply, relatively quickly and radically change the demographic landscape of the Jewish world.

Does it not seem self-evident that, if the will is there to empower Jewish continuity, the way -- or, at very least, a major way -- is the Jewish school?

Putting Goals Above Politics

Some, of course, might wax cynical at the thought of concentrating communal Jewish efforts on institutions that, all said and done, are overwhelmingly Orthodox. Coming from Orthodox quarters, to be sure, the notion would certainly seem self-serving at best.

But all truly open-minded Jews, whatever their denominational affiliations, realize that a traditional Jewish education -- one that regards Judaism as it has been regarded for three millennia -- is, simply stated, the most potent ensurer of Jewish continuity. If Jewish knowledge and observance are good, it must be admitted that more of each is surely better.

And the undeniable, happy reality is that, for decades, day schools have been resolutely, sensitively and successfully servicing children from a variety of Jewish backgrounds.

Some of those children may have since come to identify themselves as Orthodox, others not. But all were equipped with the opportunity and knowledge to make Jewish choices -- and all graduated more likely to remain conscious and dedicated parts of the Jewish people (not to mention more likely to visit or live in Israel).

Admitted Chutzpah

Still, it is probably audacious for members of the Orthodox community to suggest to people like Mr. Steinhardt and Mr. Bronfman how best to maximize investments of funds; they are, after all, proven successes in the worlds of high finance and business.

Their very success in their fields, though, might well afford us hope that, when re-evaluating their plan, the dedicated philanthropists will be keenly aware of the fact that here, as in every important endeavor, the wisest investments are those placed in proven stocks.


Unorthodox Headline Wreaks Havoc!

A. Shafran

The rash of cynical, hurt or downright angry Jewish reactions to a recent pronouncement by an Orthodox rabbinical group has all but obscured the striking fact that the story was actually no story at all.

Were pillories still in fashion for public nuisances, an arguable candidate would be the Los Angeles Times headline-writer who carelessly penned the erroneous legend "Orthodox rabbis: Most U.S. Jews aren't really Jewish." Nothing of the sort was asserted, as it happens -- or possibly could have been by any lucid Orthodox rabbi. But by the time the paper realized its faux pas and admitted it in a small subsequent page-3 notice, the headline had been picked up by media across the country, and convinced countless non-Orthodox American Jews that the falsehood some of their leaders had been telling them for years -- that we Orthodox consider them somehow less than fully Jewish -- was actually true.

The facts, for anyone interested: Dedication to Jewish religious law, or halacha, is synonymous with Jewish Orthodoxy. And halacha regards every man and woman born to a Jewish mother or converted according to Jewish law's conversion requirements to be fully and immutably Jewish, and worthy of all the special consideration and love due Jews by other Jews. Neither personal philosophy nor level of observance can have any impact whatsoever on that status. That is uncontestable Orthodox Jewish belief.

At the same time, Orthodoxy, by its very definition, cannot consider any system of belief not predicated on the divine and unchanging nature of halacha to be a valid expression of the Judaism of the ages.

That is not a rejection as much as it is an affirmation -- of a 3000-year-old belief-system. And it most certainly does not touch upon the Jewishness of any Jew.

Unfortunately, the movements that have over past decades presented themselves in America as new "branches" of Judaism either blatantly (e.g. the Reform and Reconstructionist) or subtly (e.g. the Conservative) deny the quintessential Jewish tenet of halacha's divine and unchanging nature. That is their prerogative, of course, in a free country. But it is Orthodoxy's prerogative no less -- indeed its imperative -- to consider those movements, at least qua movements, to have immeasurably distanced themselves from "Judaism as Jewish religious law."

Judaism has a meaning, too. And not all that parades under its banner can lay historical claim to its essence.

So where does that leave the average non-Orthodox American Jew? Well, if he or she has consciously rejected the historical definition of Judaism then he or she is a Jew -- repeat, a Jew who has, sadly, abandoned his or her religious heritage. And if -- as is the case with the overwhelming majority of the non-Orthodox laity -- there is no such conscious rejection of Judaism as revealed law, only limited observance of that law, well then, the Jew in question lives essentially on the same continuum occupied by those of us called "Orthodox" Jews.

For no Jew is perfectly observant of Jewish law, and the ability to judge how observant any given individual could be lies with G-d alone. Each of us has the responsibility to do his or her best to serve G-d, but none of us may arrogate the right to judge another on that count.

In short, Judaism is Judaism. Jewish observance is Jewish observance. And Jews are Jews. Period.


Enough Already! We're FAMILY -- Fights and All

A. Shafran

It's been said before, many times. Yet, in the roiling wake of a host of outrageous headlines egregiously misrepresenting the Orthodox Jewish attitude toward non-Orthodox Jews, it apparently needs to be said, and loudly, once again:

All Jews -- observant or not, affiliated with a synagogue or not, whether they call themselves Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstuctionist or secular -- are equally Jewish in the eyes of Orthodox Judaism.

A very different image was presented by a slew of ostensibly respectable organs in the national press of late. "Orthodox Rabbis Say Non-Orthodox Are Not Jews" asserted one headline. "Orthodox Rabbis: Most U.S. Jews Aren't Really Jewish" blared another. Even The New York Times' header for the story of a rabbinical group's issuance of a statement on Jewish religious pluralism -- "Rabbi Group Is Preparing To Denounce Non-Orthodox" -- was surely interpreted by many to refer to non-Orthodox Jews. It did not, indeed could not.

To be sure, by its very definition, Orthodox Judaism considers the Jewish faith to be predicated on the divine and binding nature of the Torah and halacha (Jewish religious law). Hence Jewish movements that reject any or all of that premise are manifestly unacceptable to Orthodoxy as valid "branches" of Judaism. That should hardly be news to anybody.

However, every son or daughter of a Jewish mother (the halachic determinant of membership in the Jewish people), or any non-Jew who has converted to Judaism in accordance with Jewish religious law, is every bit as Jewish as the greatest Orthodox scholar.

In these contentious times, it is crucial that the public realize that Orthodox Jews' principled refusal to accept the idea of "multiple Judaisms" is no way whatsoever a rejection of any of our beloved fellow Jews.

Could anyone with an open mind really think otherwise? When Orthodox Jews or institutions reach out to non-Orthodox Jews through the myriad educational and outreach programs the Orthodox world has to offer, do they ever dream of setting religious registration requirements or so much as ask about observance or affiliation?

Were non-Orthodox Jews anything less than full Jews in Orthodox eyes, would we Orthodox ever expend the time, energy and funds we do to help acquaint them with our mutual religious heritage?

Of course not. Because the bottom line is that we are pledged to all Jews, whatever their beliefs, whatever their backgrounds, whatever their religious practices. They are, beyond anything else, our beloved Jewish brothers and sisters.

We Orthodox have our own deep-seated belief system, most certainly, the belief system of all Jews' ancestors. And when we perceive that the future of Jewish unity is threatened -- by things like the Reform movement's "patrilineal descent" decision or the current attempts to foist unwanted and sociologically unsafe "Jewish religious pluralism" on Israelis -- we do, and will continue to, speak up.

But never may any of us lose sight, G-d forbid, of the fact that we are -- all of us Jews -- family.

Like many families, we might have disagreements, and they might be important, even crucial, ones. They might on occasion be unpleasant, even hurtful, ones.

But family we remain just the same.


Jewish Line-Drawings

A. Shafran

As a spokesman for a national grass-roots Orthodox Jewish organization, I am often called upon to explain the strictures and boundaries set in place by my faith, its "drawing of lines." Whence Orthodox Judaism's convictions that Jews are, or are not, permitted to do -- or eat or say or believe or accept -- this or that or the other?

The task is often trying, not least because of how easily so many people mistake essential and defining religious standards for petty provincial intolerance.

Topics like kashrut or Shabbat are not terribly charged concerns. It may seem curious that some perfectly nutritional food sources are off-limits according to Jewish religious law, or halacha, -- or that Jews are forbidden by halacha to do a host of things on the Sabbath -- but neither set of prohibitions is inherently confrontational.

When the issue, though, is something like the halachic validity of a witness, marriage or conversion, lines of distinction are quickly and widely construed as lines of a different, almost military, sort. And their defense can become, at least in the face of a hostile challenger, a markedly uncomfortable experience.

And so I felt a certain empathy with a representative of a Jewish movement more often associated with pushing lines than drawing them, when he was recently forced to set discomforting but necessary limits.

Reform Rabbi Mark Washofsky is associate professor of rabbinics at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, and chairs the Central Conference of American Rabbis' Responsa Committee.

The question with which he grappled -- and that he addressed in Reform Judaism's Winter 1996 issue -- was the status, in the Reform movement's eyes, of "Messianic Jews" and "Messianic Judaism".

Sometimes referred to as "Hebrew-Christians", "Messianics" claim to be not only Jews in good standing but "fulfilled" Jews no less, having discovered what they believe to be the Jewish Messiah, namely, the Christian one.

Citing the Reform movement's avowed dedication to personal religious autonomy, some Messianic Jews have apparently demanded full membership rights in Reform temples.

Rabbi Washofsky, to his credit, minces no words.

Messianic Jews, he maintains, are "apostates and should be treated as such." He goes on to endorse the view that "we should... take the strictest position of our tradition toward them."

"Although ['Messianic Jews'] do not forfeit Jewish status," Rabbi Washofsky informs his readers, "they are not entitled to forsake our covenant."

And so the apparent position of the Reform movement is that Jews who identify themselves as "Messianic" should not be permitted to join Reform congregations.

"Autonomy," Rabbi Washofsky sums up, "is not our only religious value."

He proceeds to describe the importance of a "Jewish community united by a common vision of Jewish meaning and aspiration," and to identify the "one unifying thread that has run through Jewish tradition for two millennia" as the fact that "the New Testament is not Torah."

The rabbi's characterization is unassailable, and commendable; he has drawn a necessary line. That fact, though, should give him, and us all, pause.

For it is Orthodox Jewry's drawing of precisely such unarguably Jewish lines that has drawn the harshest criticism from Rabbi Washofsky's movement, as well as the Conservative one, of late.

The historical halachic lines delineating an acceptable Jewish conversion, for example, are respected by the Orthodox alone. The lines governing who is a born Jew and who is not, or what makes a Jewish marriage or divorce valid, are likewise determined by classical Jewish law which, though it can develop -- within clearly delineated bounds -- to meet new circumstances, is, in its essence, immutable. Abandoning those time-honored standards is not only un-Jewish, it threatens the future coherence of the Jewish people.

Surely, there is considerably more than mere rejection of Christianity comprising the "unifying thread that has run through Jewish tradition for two millennia."

From biblical times -- more than 3000 years ago -- until the 1800s, the "common vision of Jewish meaning and aspiration" was firmly based on the universal Jewish conviction that the Torah is the unchanging word of G-d, and that the corpus of its divinely-conveyed oral interpretation embodies the essence and directs the praxis of Judaism.

That conviction remains the Orthodox credo to this day, and, to us Orthodox, its truth still binds all Jews, whatever their affiliation, whatever way of life they may choose for themselves.

The lines we Orthodox draw, in the end, are those of classical Judaism, the heritage of all Jews everywhere. They alone have kept us an identifiable, single people through countless attacks from without and schisms from within.

The non-Orthodox movements have their own lines as well, as Rabbi Washofsky reminds us. It's hard, though, not to wonder how vastly different our contemporary Jewish world would be if there were wider understanding -- and, dare one venture, respect -- for those who draw the lines of Jewish belief and practice as Jews have drawn them for over three millennia.


The Man On The Bima

A. Shafran

He ascended the steps to the bima, the platform where the Torah is read, with the strangely hurried movements of someone who would rather be traveling the other way. This middle-aged fellow, apparently something of a stranger to a shul, had just been "called up" from his seat in the back of the small Orthodox shul to make the blessings on the Torah.

If they get so nervous, I thought to my cynical teen-age self that day several decades ago, they should really come more than just a few times a year, if only to get the feel of things. The blessings, after all, are not very long, the Hebrew not particularly tongue-twisting. "Asher bochar banu mikol ho'amim" (Who has chosen us from among all the nations)," I prompt him in my mind, "v'nosan lonu es toraso (and has given us His Torah)." C'mon, man, you can do it.

From A Blessing to a Question

His life was passing before his very eyes; you could tell. The occasion, for the man, was both momentous and terrifying. And then he did something totally unexpected, something that made me laugh to myself at first, but then made me think -- and then realize something precious about our people.

As he read the blessings he made a mistake.

That, of course, wasn't entirely unexpected. Many a shul-goer, especially the only occasional one, leaves out words here and there, reverses the blessings' order, or just draws a traumatic blank when faced with the sudden holiness of the Torah. Nothing of that sort would have been remarkable. But this congregant was different; his mistake was truly fascinating.

"Asher bochar banu," he intoned, a bit unsure of himself, "mikol," slight hesitation, "...haleylos shebechol haleylos anu ochlim-"

The poor fellow had jumped the track of the Torah blessing and was barreling along with the Four Questions a Jewish child asks at the Pesach seder. For the first second or two, it was mildly humorous. But then it struck me.

Is That All There Is?

The hastily-corrected and embarrassed man had more than likely laid bare the scope of his Jewishness, revealed all the associations Judaism still held for him, all that was left of the great rabbinical family his ancestors may have been, for all I knew.

So the first thoughts were sad ones. I imagined a shtetl in Eastern Europe where an old observant Jew lived in physical poverty but spiritual wealth. I saw him studying through the night, working all day to support his wife and many children, one of whom had later managed to survive Hitler's Final Solution to the "Jewish Problem" and make it to America, to gratefully sire a single heir, the man on the bima.

We Jews have so very much to set right, I thought, millions of souls to create and millions more to reach, just to get to where we were a mere sixty years ago.

There was more, though, to reflect upon. A good deal more. And a good deal more heartening.

Reason To Smile

Here, it dawned on me, stood a man inexperienced in Jewish observance, probably all but oblivious to the rich experiences of holiness his ancestral faith holds.

And yet he knows the Four Questions.

By heart.

When he tries to recite the blessings over the Torah, the distance between himself and his heritage cannot keep those Four Questions from creeping in unsummoned, tiptoeing but determined.

The seder experience had become part of his essence. That was a happy thought and, I now realize, a recurrent one.

I remember a conversation I once had with a highly educated, secular Jewish gentleman, married to a non-Jewish woman and not affiliated with any Jewish institution.

Knowing that there were few Jews as indifferent to traditional practices as he, his en passant mention of Passover prompted me to ask about his plans for the holiday.

He looked at me as if I were mad. "Why, we're planning an elaborate seder, as always."

Astonished at the sudden revelation of a vestige of religious custom in this fellow's life, I told him as much. He replied, matter-of-factly, that he would never think of abolishing his Passover seder, though he offered no justification for the ritual. I didn't press the issue.

When, living in Northern California, I became acquainted with yet other Jewish families seemingly devoid of religious practice, by choice or by circumstance, I always made a point of finding an opportunity to ask if a seder of any sort was celebrated on Passover. Almost invariably it was.

Strange Compulsion

It is striking. There are more types of haggados than any other volume in the immense literary repertoire of the Jewish people. The Sixties saw a "civil-rights haggadah" and a "Soviet Jewry haggadah." Nuclear disarmament and vegetarian versions followed. Bizarre as they all may be to traditional sorts, at the core of each is the age-old recounting of the ancient story of the Jews leaving Egypt and receiving the Torah. It is almost as if Jews, wherever circumstances may have left them, feel some strange compulsion to preserve the Passover seder and its lessons at any cost, in whatever form is most palatable to their momentary persuasions.

A series of events that took place millennia ago - pivotal events in the history of the Jewish nation - are regularly and openly commemorated by millions of Jews the world over, many of whom do so out of an inner motivation they cannot themselves explain.

They may not even realize what they are saying when they read their haggados, beyond the simplest of its ideas, that a Force saved their forefathers from terrible enemies and entered into a covenant with them and their descendants.

But that is apparently enough. The spiritual need that spawns the almost hypnotic observance of the seder by Jews the world over is satisfied. And even if mothers and fathers go back, after their sedarim, to decidedly less than Jewishly observant lives, their daughters and sons have received the message, as their parents did when they were young, and their parents before them.

The seed is planted.

Singing For The Future

The seder-service is indisputably child-oriented. There are recitations which can only be described as children's songs in the haggadah's text, and various doings at the seder are explained by the Talmud as warranted for the sole purpose of stimulating the curiosity of the young ones.

For the children are the next generation of the Jewish nation; and the seder is the crucial act of entrusting the most important part of their history to them, for safekeeping and re-entrustment to their own young in time.

And so, in the spring of each year, like birds compelled to begin their season of rebirth with song, Jews feel the urge to sing as well. They sing to their young ones, as their ancestors did on the bank of the Red Sea, and the song is a story. It tells of their people and how the Creator of all adopted them. And if, far along the line, a few - even many - of us fall from the nest, all is not lost; for we all remember the song.

Even the man on the bima remembered.

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In Loving Memory Of Our Father, Mr. Joseph Black (Yosef Ben Zelig) O"H
In Loving Memory Of Our Mother, Mrs. Norma Black (Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh) O"H
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© 1996- by Harlan Black, JewishAmerica. All rights reserved.

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