Speak intensely to your children

We learn a great deal, in the first Rashi of the book of Vayikra, about the nature of the ‘call’ that went out to Moshe before Hashem spoke to him. 

ויקרא אל משה - לכל דברות ולכל אמירות ולכל צוויים קדמה קריאה לשון חבה (יומא ד' ויקרא ר') לשון שמלאכי השרת משתמשים בו שנא' (ישעיה ו) וקרא זה אל זה

And he called to Moshe - for all of the speakings and all of the utterances and all the commandments there was a calling beforehand, which implies affection, language that the ministering angels use, as is written, “And they call to one another.” 

Rashi, from the Gemarra and Midrash, explains that this calling happened every time, regardless of the type of speech that was about to be used. It is interesting, then, to consider, in the opposite direction, what was additional element might have been operative when Moshe spoke to the people. As Rav Kook explains, Moshe had to not only convey a specific message, he had to do so in a way that would have an inspiring effect on the listener.

וידבר ד' אל משה לאמר, צו את אהרן ואת בניו לאמר. כשם שה"לאמר" הראשון הוא מיוסד להגיד, שכח ההשפעה המקורית של הדבור אל משה הופיע ג"כ בהאמירה שלו, למסור דבריו למי שנצטוה להגיד לו את דבר ד', כמו-כן ביסוד   הצואה של אהרן ובניו, שיש בה משום זירוז מיד ולדורות, יעמד כח החיים של דבר ד' הראשון כאשר יצא מפי רועה נאמן לראשית קדושת הכהונה,בישראל, לאהרן ובניו. כמו שהיה מיד, כן יהיה לדורות, באותו רשם הקדש, בעוצם חיותו ועומק קליטתו באמונת אומן נשגבה. והרשם הזה פועל להגן נגד כל התרשלות, האפשרית לבא במקום שיש חסרון כיס, ופועל להקיש את רשם הדורות אל הרשם של מיד. "אין צו אלא זירוז מיד ולדורות. אמר ר"ש ביותר שיש חסרון כיס" (ספרא). 

The first 'to say' is there to communicate that the original effective power of the speech to Moshe was in force when he spoke to convey the word of God to those to whom he was commanded to speak. And the life-force of the original word of Hashem, as communicated by the faithful shepherd at the moment of the original sanctification of the Priesthood, continued to be in force toward Aharon and his sons in order to motivate them, immediately and for all generations. As it was at that first moment, so shall it be for future generations, with this very same impression of the Holy, in its intense alive-ness, and its deep capacity to absorb people into its great faith. And this impression acts to protect against all sorts of weakening which are likely to come when an endeavor is costly, and it also acts to position the impression on future generations as relate to the impression of the original moment. “The word tzav always implies urging, immediately and for future generations. Rabbi Shimon added that this is even more necessary when the act is costly.”

This particular lesson has enormous implications in the realm of pedagogy: It is of  essential importance that we invest our teaching - be it in the classroom or at the seder, or anywhere - with enthusiasm. That is what comes through, in the end. And this can help open up at least one portion of the Hagaddah.

As I have attempted to articulate elsewhere, in light of a teaching from Erica Brown, the Hagaddah is less the story of the Exodus, and more a series of stories about people talking about the Exodus.

Ostensibly, each one of these stories - the Bnei Berak Seder, the 4 sons, the person delivering 1st fruits to Jerusalem, and many others - represents a sort of Exodus in itself. In each, there is some Mitzrayim, and some Exodus, at least in potential. The Four Sons, for example, may represent a family and the need for that family to escape certain patterns that keep that family from the generational healing that Eliyahu the prophet is supposed to bring through the Seder. The bearer of the 1st fruits may be stuck in thinking it is someone else’s story, and he needs to make it his own. 

But what of the Bnei Berak Seder? What’s astounding about this story is that we have no record of what they said (outside of sporadic mention in other parts of the Hagaddah of the five men who were there that could, theoretically, be pinned to that Seder). Rather, we have the simple assertion that these five men, who knew SO much Torah, still enthusiastically engaged with the telling, to the point where they needed to be stopped. 

So what becomes remarkable about the story is not the content, not what they said to each other. Rather, we are left to wonder at the fact that, somehow, there was just so much to talk about. How? Wasn’t the material finite? Sure. but that’s just in one dimension. In this other dimension, driven by passion, enthusiasm, intensity - those things open up so much in the text. So we have an Exodus from the sense of the text, the story, the symbols, the possibilities as finite.