Seder Pointers - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Seder Pointers

The Seder dinner, performed with elaborate detail the first two nights of Passover, is the most observed of Jewish holiday rituals. Even Jews alienated from tradition are drawn to this enjoyable family gathering. Like all festive evenings, it is preceded by an afternoon buzz and bustle. The children tend to be jumpy, while mothers predictably warn them to nap so they can stay up late into the night. Here and there a success story emerges about an actual mother who got an actual kid to take an actual nap, but this qualifies as a man-bites-dog news item.

When it comes down to it, few mothers are stern enough to follow through on the threat to make the nap resister lose his privilege to attend the festivities. After all, the purpose of the event is to provide a formal setting for parents to fulfill their mission to pass along to the next generation the narrative of the nation’s origins and the message that God runs the world. The joy and the drama convey the import of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, the prelude to the Torah being given to the world through the Jewish People at Mount Sinai.

The best way to sum up the message of the Seder is to offer my translation of the words of Nachmanides (1194-1270) in his commentary to the Bible:

“Now I will tell you a general rule which covers many commandments of the Torah. From the time idolatry began in the world during the days of Enos, there developed mistaken ideologies about religious belief. Some would deny the main principle of a Creator, and they thought the world always existed in its present form… Others denied that He had specific knowledge of events in this world and they said ‘How could God know and how could there be intelligence on high?’ Still others accept the idea that He knows everything but they deny that He is involved in human existence; they see humanity living like the fish in the sea, where God takes no interest in them and they receive neither punishment nor reward. They say that God has abandoned this Earth…

“When God shows an interest in a community or an individual and he does a miracle for them by changing the pattern and the nature of this world, it clarifies to all of mankind the nullity of every one of these ideas, because this amazing miracle proves that the world has a God Who renews it and Who knows and is involved and is capable.

“Furthermore, when such a miracle is performed after first being predicted by a prophet, it has the added effect of clarifying the truth inherent in prophecy, confirming that God does address Himself to human beings and He does reveal His secrets to the prophets who serve Him. As a result, the entire Torah is certified in this way.

“This is why the Torah writes about the miracles in Egypt, ‘so that you will know that I am God in the midst of this Earth.’ It confirms that He did not abandon mankind to the vagaries of chance, as they think. It also says He is doing this ‘so that you will know that God has possession of this Earth.’ This confirms that He created this as a new world by bringing it forth from nothingness.

“It further states His reasoning is ‘so you will know that there is none like God in this entire Earth.’ This is to teach that He can do anything and that He has control over everything; there is no force which can prevent Him from doing anything. Each of the religious principles we established above — omnipotence, omniscience, control, involvement — was denied or doubted by Egyptians.

“If so, these miraculous signs and demonstrations are trustworthy witnesses on behalf of faith in the Creator and in the entire Torah.

“However, God will not do these signs and demonstrations again and again in generation after generation for every single evildoer or denier to see. Instead He commands us to make a remembrance at all times to serve as a symbol for what we see with our own eyes. We must then pass this matter along to our children, and our children must pass it to their children, and on to their children until the end of time…

“From these great and widely publicized miracles a person will come to acknowledge the hidden miracles. This is the foundation of the entire Torah, because no person has a share in the Torah of Moshe our Teacher until he believes that every event and every situation in our lives are all miracles. There is no such thing as Nature or an automatic pattern of physical reality; rather, when a person fulfills God’s commandments he will be rewarded with success and if he violates them his punishment will cut him down. Everything is decreed by the One Above…”

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