Finding The Words
“This primary intuition of the strangeness of it all, of our single selves as unspeakably fragile and brilliant observers of a grandeur for which we have tried through all our generations to find words, this is the experience that seems to me to underlie religion. – Marilynne Robinson, “Credo” Harvard Divinty Bulletin, Spring 2008
I have already given away hundreds of commentaries on the Haggadah, and I still have more than 200 volumes in my library. I thought I broke my addiction to buying books but I am struggling to stay away from Riverdale Judaica and buying all the new commentaries on the Haggadah. They don’t stop coming. There aren’t enough words to convey all the insights and thoughts into the Haggadah.
The Ari Hakodesh explains that Pesach is derived from two words: Peh and Sach, a mouth that speaks. The Children of Israel had lost their ability to communicate important ideas. They left Egypt from Pi HaChirot, The Mouth of Freedom, and they entered the desert, or Midbar, which can also be read, Midaber, to speak. They soon received the Aseret Hadibrot – The Ten Statements (definitely NOT Ten Commandments). Pesach is about learning to communicate, which is why we are commanded to communicate the stories of our history to our children.
It is even more interesting that we do all this speaking only after our children have remarked on the strangeness of it all by asking the Ma Nishtana (The ONE Question with four examples – NOT the Four questions) and the four sons have asked their questions. We wait for someone to remark on the unusual and the mysterious before we speak.
Pesach speech is focused on nurturing our ability to discuss and describe the strange, the things that, at first galnce, ar beyond words, the things that do not seem to match our everyday vocabulary.
We teach our children to articulate that which is beyond them in order to make it accessible and meaningful.
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