Sunday, January 19, 2020 -
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Not four questions, only one

Dear Tzviling,

I don’t get it. I open up the news, and what do I read? Everyone is at war with everyone else. People are fighting. What does this mean? And, how I can rejoice as a Jew, when I see what is happening? How can I celebrate Passover? I feel like calling it quits.

Matt (sent by e-mail)

Dear Matt,

Thank you for your poignant question.

Allow us to share the following story:

In the mid 1960’s Mordy is backpacking across the country, and happens to pass a synagogue in the Midwest, one night in spring.

Hungry and tired, he enters the synagogue, patently unaware that it is the first night of Pesach (Passover).

He walks up to the first person he sees — Velvel, a college student, who is also visiting — and asks where he can find a place to eat.

Velvel assures him that traditionally, Jews are hospitable, especially on Pesach night, and somebody is bound to invite the two of them for a meal.

Sure enough, within minutes, people are asking them if they have a place to eat and, voila, Mordy and Velvel are both whisked off to their respective hosts.

This would be the first Seder — indeed the first traditional service — for Mordy.

The next day, Velvel and Mordy meet in shul, and Velvel is only too eager to inquire about Mordy’s experience:

Velvel: So, Mordy, how did you enjoy yourself last night?

Mordy: Don’t ask. It was terrible.

Velvel: How terrible could it have been? What happened?

Mordy: Well, first our host gathers the family and guests around the table, and spends 10 minutes reading from a book in Hebrew. Remember, I was famished and  wanted to eat.

Velvel: So, what happened next?

Mordy: They pour us a cup of wine. This was good. But, listen to this. Everyone gets up to wash. Aha, I thought.

Now, comes the banquet. And what do you know? We get a piece of onion — and what a small piece! Is that a way to treat the guests?

Velvel: Then what happened?

Mordy: The host breaks some of the crackers, and everyone starts asking questions.

Finally, after half an hour of more words and discussions, we stand up to wash again.

I figured, this is it. Here comes the food.

But no, all we got is a piece of  the broken cracker, followed by bitter herbs, which almost caused me to ignite.

Velvel: And, then?

Mordy: Finally, the host said we’re going to have a sandwich. Finally! I was hoping for a pastrami sandwich (with pickles). I couldn’t believe it.

More stiff crackers; more bitter herbs, this time, disguised as a sandwich. So, I said, “that’s it.”

Velvel: What did you do?

Mordy: I got up and left. How much can a person take?

Velvel: But, Mordy. The main course was about to be served. Had you waited just a few moments longer, you would have delicious fish, soup, chicken, and that is just the  beginning. Ah, if only you waited a few moments longer  . . .

You see, Matt, this story — and indeed the Passover seder — is about life as we know it: Kind and rewarding, yet bitter and painful. It is called exile.

But this is only temporary. This is not the world as it was meant to be. Soon, soon, Moshiach (the Messiah) will come, and peace and goodness will be the rule — not the exception.

The world will be changed — for good.

It is up to you and me to prepare, by doing our share of kindness and mitzvos now.

Don’t call it quits, Matt. A little bit more and let the banquet begin.

SEND your questions to to be answered with wit, wisdom and humor by identical twins Rabbis Yisroel Engel (Denver) and Shloime Engel (Montreal) who share their combined 100 years of experience.

Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News


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