“One who raises himself above the community and who seeks her own desires, rages against all sound judgement” ( Proverbs 18:1).
The Community Seder was fantastic beyond our wildest expectations. We had participants from ages five to well over fifty-five. I believe we all enjoyed the true feeling of community but two memories that night distinctly stand out in my mind.
A visitor, which we hope he and his family become members, asked me about the Afikoman and its significance. I informed him it is another device Judaism puts in place so younger people will pay attention during services. Much the same as the dreidel which is there so kids pay attention to the Hanukkiah for the half hour the candles or oil are burning. He remarked with a bit of wonder “Judaism does all that so that the kids stay involved” and I reminded him of the child mentioned in the Seder service called “Rasha” or evil, who is only so because he separates himself from the community.
To our people, especially at Temple Beth Emet, our children are everything to us, as is evident by several former students of our school, attending the Seder with their parents. Therefore, we must be doing the right things to keep them involved.
Unfortunately, not all moments of the Seder were good.
After the children, who sat through the Seder and when called upon helped conduct it, found the Afikoman, I went to reward them for their efforts. I laid the rewards on my Seder Table, but when I went to get a drink of water and came back, one of the prizes was missing. I looked over and not only had it been removed, but people had eaten the chocolate covered Matzahs that were in the box. How fast they must have taken and gobbled it up, G-d only knows.
Now a box of chocolate matzahs is not very costly, in terms of dollars and cents, I know because I bought them for the children, but they are priceless in terms of what they showed the children. Each day, we at Temple Beth Emet teach, as is the Reform movement’s emphasis, Ethics and Values. How do we explain to our children that a few adults took advantage of a situation and deprived the children of what should have been a total joy and reward for them?
Luckily, I almost always buy more than we need. It’s the Jewish way my mother taught me. So the children seemed to be happy. But why should a reward for such exemplary behavior be tainted by such selfishness?
Why should one of the Brightest Shining Stars of the Temples long and valued Community Seders be tarnished by such a display of disdain for our youngest generation?
And now I must apologize, for my own tarnish, as I almost violated one of our principles, “Thou Shalt Not embarrass one in Public”. Nevertheless, I am sure the group of people who took the gifts from the children know how upset I was and still am. As a joke when I walked away a second time, they took the other box. The first taking wasn’t funny nor was the second. Further, a comment from someone I respect when he saw what had transpired was to the effect that he was not surprised.
We had several guest families in attendance, which brings to mind the question how did it look to them to see adults taking from children?
Unfortunately, this is not the first time this happened. Friends, because we are a congregation that believes in giving people the benefit of doubt, we do not and have not confronted those who take from the congregation. But truly, we know who they are and, more importantly, G-d knows.
Ultimately, Passover is called Z’man Herutainu, Time of our Freedom, but at Temple Beth Emet and in life, there are limits to one’s freedom.