Heard in a synogouge in Boca Raton.
One of the comments in the gemora is that the plague of frogs started with one frog and each time it was hit it multiplied. Looking in from the side you would think that the Egyptians would catch on and stop hitting the frog, no?
Maybe they were so enraged at that darn frog that the world narrowed down to hitting the frog, come what may. We should be careful of laughing too hard at the silly Egyptian. All to often we get in an argument or embroiled in something and all could be well if we'd just step back a moment and think.
But we just keep plowing ahead.
Sometimes we just need to stop hitting the frog
Stop hitting the Frog!
Pre-Pesach Torah I
Moving toward Pesach I'm feeling good and also a bit tense. I'm feeling good because I'm thinking about things like Pesach, Haggadah, and holiday more than 48 hours in advance. I'm feeling tense because I tend to think to much and worry.
A teacher of mine, Rabbi Francis Nataf, shared the following thoughts on the Haggadah, Seder, and the point of the whole night. He felt that, after the story of the exile and redemption, the participants of a Pesach seder should, at the point of Hallel, feel a desire to sing and praise God for all the good we experienced having "just been brought out of Egypt". That is the Hallel. Not to read or sing through it like the rest of the seder but to feel a personal desire to praise God and to use the traditional text to focus that desire.
He went on to say that part of the reason people find this difficult to achieve, or feel it's unnatural is because of our relationship to Maggid. Many of us turn our Maggid into a group study session of the details of the text. We debate the timing of the Rabbis sitting in Beni-Brak or the "k'ben shivim" of Reb Elazar ben Azarya rather than grasping the idea behind these pieces. The Baal Haggaddah was giving us examples of people who immersed themselves in the story of the exodus the whole night long and people who had new idea shown to them that clarified their understanding of the story. The point is to similarly immerse ourselves in the story and the storytelling. We should feel the shiabud and the geulah. We should feel them and experience them and at the end feel grateful for having been redeemed.
After I heard this idea it struck a chord in me. I wonder if we, even with our religious, traditional upbringing also need some relevance for a ceremony remembering physical slavery and miraculous redemptions. I grew up in a world with Shabbos as part of my life and community. I didn't grow up in a world with slaves next door. Maybe it's no surprise that I don't feel personally relived that "anu u'vinynu" are not still mishuabadim to Pharoah.
Additionally, the more I thought about it, the more I saw the format of the haggadah pointed towards drawing us in. We ask questions even when we are just by ourselves, we tell stories about what "we" did, and we remind ourselves that we were personally saved by the exodus from Egypt way back when.
In a practical vein I need suggestions. What can we do so that we all feel a personal connection to the redemption and reach Hallel with gratitude and a desire to thank Hashem?