At my seder no one understands Hebrew, so we read the Haggadah in English. My cousin who is fluent in Hebrew says that we miss much of the richness and depth of the story by reading it in translation. Apparently there are deeper lessons that can only be found in the Hebrew. What does he mean?
In every English version of the Haggadah that I have seen, there is one word that is always translated incorrectly.
When listing the Ten Plagues that smote the Egyptians, second one in Hebrew is called Tzefardeya. This is always translated as Frogs. But the original Hebrew is in the singular. The translation should be Frog.
Now indeed, it is a little awkward to translate it literally. One frog hopping around does not seem like much of a plague. And to be fair, in many languages the singular form can denote a group, so perhaps Frog can mean Frogs. But there must be a reason why the Haggadah calls this plague the plague of a frog. Lice is in plural, so why is frog singular?
The talmudic tradition answers that actually, the plague of frogs started with one single frog. A large frog emerged from the Nile River. The Egyptians saw it, and knowing that Moses had warned them there would be a plague of frogs, attacked the giant frog with sticks. As they struck the frog, it started spewing hundreds and thousands of little frogs, which quickly spread over the entire land. The more they hit, the more frogs appeared.
So indeed the plague started with a frog singular. It was the Egyptian reaction that caused frogs plural.
Those foolish Egyptians were attacking the frog, but ignoring its root cause. The plagues were only coming because the Egyptians refused to let the Israelites go free. But rather than taking a hard look at themselves and changing their cruel behaviour, the Egyptians looked at this big frog and tried to kill it. Which only led to more frogs.
There is a deep message behind this rather odd episode. Because so often we do the same silly thing as those Egyptians did. Rather than deal with our problems, we try to take away the consequences. We attack the symptoms but not the cause, the outside manifestation of an issue rather than our own part in it. And things only get worse
We get upset at our spouse for pointing out our flaws, rather than facing the flaws themselves.
We lose patience with our kids who are misbehaving, while the main reason for their playing up is because we don't have patience to really listen to them in the first place.
We throw sharp objects at our computer for taking too long to warm up just when we need to view an important document for a meeting starting in two minutes. And then for some reason the computer doesn't work at all.
We hit these frogs, and all we get is more frogs.
The Haggadah is full of such powerful lessons. It is worth studying it in detail, and there are many excellent English translations with commentaries that bring out the deeper meanings. The above is just an example of how even one word in the Haggadah can teach us volumes. Don't look at the frog. Look at yourself.
Kiddush in honor of Karen Uziel's grandmother, Chaya Handelsman, who passed away one week ago today.
She was a kind and loving person, always devoted and doting to her family. A Holocaust survivor, she was an extremely resilient and strong woman, both physically and emotionally. We love her, will miss her, and hope she will finally be reunited her late husband, Yisroel.
Shabbos, 1 April, 2017 | 5 Nissan 5777
In depth Parsha Class............... 9:00am
Children's program................. 10:45am
Shabbos Morning Service ........ 10:00am- 12:20pm
Kiddush in honour of Josh & Orly who are returning to the U.S, and to celebrate Orly's 30th birthday!- Mazal Tov! Sponsored by their Nefesh friends.
Also sponsored by Greg & Simone Moshal in honour of the birth and naming of their daughter Alexa (Esther)- Mazal Tov!
Mincha followed by Seudah Shlishis ........ 6:30pm
Gematria and story by Rev Amzalak........... 6:50pm
Shiur with Rabbi Moss,The Lost Haggadah... 7:10pm
Shabbos ends and Maariv........................ 7:27pm
My favourite part of the Seder is when the kids sing the famous Four Questions, Ma Nishtana. But I always wondered why we call it the Four Questions. Look at the text, they are actually four statements:
Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights we eat chometz (leaven) or matzah. On this night we eat only matzah. On all other nights we eat any type of vegetables. On this night, we eat maror (bitter herbs). On all other nights we are not required to dip even once. On this night we dip twice. On all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining. On this night, we all recline.
So are they questions or answers?
Sometimes, the question is the answer. The Ma Nishtana is asking, why is tonight different from all other nights? What unique power does the night of Pesach hold, that it can inspire even the most distant soul and touch even the most stubborn skeptic? What will happen tonight that will change our perspective, open our spiritual eyes and ignite our souls?
The answer: there are four ingredients to this night that make it different, and give it the power to inspire. On this night we eat matzah and bitter herbs, we dip and we lean. When you know what they represent, you will have the answer to why this night is so different.
On this night we eat only Matzah. Matzah represents humility. It is flat and tasteless, unlike bread which is puffed-up and full of itself. Humility is the first prerequisite to growth and learning. Someone who is full of themselves cannot change. Only if I am open and humble can I truly develop as a person. So while on other nights my ego may get in the way of my own spiritual development, tonight it won't because tonight we eat only Matzah, the bread of humility.
On this night, we eat Maror. Many people are closed to spirituality not out of arrogance, but rather out of indifference. They simply don't care. Such people cannot be inspired because they lack feeling, they are numb and insensitive. They need a jolt, something to shatter their complacency and make them feel again. This is the Maror. There's nothing like a mouthful of horseradish to get your heart pounding. So we eat the Maror, to remember the bitterness of slavery that our forebears experienced, and by extension our own inner bitterness, our slavery to bad habits, and the darker side to our personality. All other nights we may remain apathetic and avoid feeling the pain, but tonight we take the bitter pill, we eat the Maror.
On this night we dip twice. Some of us go through life without ever being present. We may be sitting in one place, but our mind is elsewhere. We are constantly focusing on what needs to happen next, or where we would rather be, and never experiencing the moment for what it is. Such a life is no life. We can miss out on the magic of everyday, simply because we are not looking. So tonight will be different. Tonight we will immerse ourselves in the moment, and be totally transfixed by the Seder and its message. We will dip ourselves entirely in the words of the Haggadah. Not once but twice - in body and in mind we will be present at the Seder.
On this night, we all recline. A major impediment to growth is our feeling that we are stuck as we are, and we cannot change. If only we realised what untold powers lay within our soul, we would know that there is so much more we could be achieving. With all our failings and all our weaknesses, we have a soul that is pure royalty, a divine spark that towers over and above all the challenges that life brings. And so while on all other nights we may not be aware of it, tonight we recline like the kings and queens we truly are, we act like royalty because we are royalty, the sons and daughters of G-d.
And so indeed the four questions are really four answers. Why is tonight different? Why will our souls be set free tonight? Because we will have the humility of the Matzah, we will break through our indifference and sensitise ourselves with the Maror, we will immerse our mind and body in the experience of the Seder, and we will acknowledge the true nobility and royalty of our infinitely powerful soul.
And it's the kids who teach us how to do all this. Look at a child. They are truly free, because they have the humility to learn, the openness of heart to feel, the trust to be immersed in the moment, and the confidence to believe that they can do anything. So let's listen to the kid's questions. In them we can find some answers.
Can you explain my children to me? I have dedicated my life to looking after their every need. But if I ask one of them to get me a glass of water they moan and groan as if I have asked them to run a marathon for me. Why is it that one parent can raise four kids, but four kids can't look after one parent?
We are all descendants of Adam and Eve, the first human beings. We have inherited from them the basic ingredients of human nature.
One thing made Adam and Eve very different to the rest of us. They didn't have parents. They were created as adults by G-d, not born as babies to parents. They had no umbilical cords. They probably didn't even have belly buttons.
We on the other hand do have parents. And we inherit their genes, all the way back to Adam and Eve. That's why the desire to look after our children is human nature, but looking after our parents (and our belly buttons) are skills that don't come naturally. Adam and Eve knew how to parent, but they never knew how to treat a parent. This is a skill that we need to learn.
You have indeed provided your children with so much. You drive them to and from school, you feed them well, and buy them everything they ask for. But all this is not enough. You need to give them a moral code.
If children are taught to just follow their heart and trust their instincts, then they will do just that. Their instincts tell them to care for themselves and their young, but not their parents.
On the other hand, if we teach our children that they are moral beings, who can use their free choice to go beyond their genetic programming, they can do what is right rather than what feels right, and what is good rather than what feels good. This means honouring the people who gave you your existence, your parents and the generations past.
Teach your children who they really are. We are not just genes wearing jeans. We are ethical beings with a belly button.