One year ago, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, spiritual leader of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, wrote a message to his congregants about the approaching Passover holiday. Acknowledging that the overwhelming preparations the celebration demands can engender feelings of dread, Myers encouraged his flock to shift its attitude, as it is this generation that is responsible for how, and if, the next generation will carry on the traditions of our people.
Myers wrote that although the holiday presents its challenges, “our attitudes approaching the holiday set the stage for what our children will do in the next generation. If you really want to turn your children and grandchildren on to Passover, then a positive outlook is most important.”
Of course, no one could have predicted what Jewish Pittsburgh would face just six months later, but the essence of Myers’ 2018 Passover message is even more crucial today, at Passover, and in a broader context.
Although his words were aimed then at improving our attitude toward a particular holiday, they resonate more deeply now as we have been made acutely aware of the persistent and rising dangers of anti-Semitism in a real, horrifying, and heartbreaking way. If Judaism is to continue to survive in the face of hatred (a word that Myers now refuses to even utter), it is clear we must double down on instilling love for our people and our heritage in our children.
In his 2018 Passover piece, Myers presented several concrete suggestions on how to do this. The first was to speak “only positively about the holiday.” Others implored adults to include children in the preparation process, to make them an integral part of it, and praising them for participating.
“Speak glowingly about the present, wistfully about the past, and hopefully about the future,” Myers wrote.
Throughout the centuries, there have been miscreants who have tried to destroy the Jewish people, in body as well as in spirit. At our seders this weekend, we will again recount the story of our ancestors who were enslaved in Egypt, and the Pharaoh who set out to kill our sons. We will celebrate our freedom, our redemption, our survival, and our strength.
As we continue to process the unbearable pain inflicted on Jewish Pittsburgh by a modern-day anti-Semite wielding an assault weapon and murdering or wounding 13 cherished members of our community, let us resolve to double down on our efforts to impart the joy of our traditions and heritage to our children at our seders and continue to do so long after we have sung Adir Hu.
“Life can never provide us with guarantees,” Myers presciently wrote. “Nevertheless, with the appropriate effort, you will set the stage for a joyous celebration of Passover for generations to come. I hope that 25 years from now, while seated at your child’s table, he or she will speak fondly of what you did. It is worth the investment and pays great dividends.” PJC