Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pesach 5771

Erev Z’man Chayrusaynu

14 Nissan 5771/April 18, 2011

One of the many recent technological innovations is ebooks. If you have an ipad or smartphone you can upload an app that puts a book onto the device. The book reads itself, with the word being read highlighted. The child viewing the program learns that there is an association between what they are hearing and the words being spoken. If the child touches any of the pictures in the story a description of the picture floats to the top of the page and a voice states the word. For example, if the child taps a picture of a cat, the letters C-A-T float to the top of the page and the narrator says in a clear voice: cat. This helps the child learn picture word association.

There are those who oppose the new ibooks, claiming that they are more detrimental than helpful. Phillip Nel, an English professor at Kansas State University claims that the ibooks aren’t books at all. “In a traditional reading experience, the reader is in charge. The reader acts on the book. With an interactive e-book, the reader does still act on the book, but the book also acts on, and depending on the adaptation, against the reader…. Reading may be involved but there’s more to it than that. We don’t read a film we watch a film. We don’t read a video game, we play a video game… Do we ‘play’ an enhanced e-book?”

The mitzvah of retelling the exodus on the night of Pesach is, “only at the time when matzah and marror are resting before you.” The Seder begins with a declaration about the matzah, “This is the bread of affliction that our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt.” Later in the haggadah we describe the matzah as being the bread of freedom that baked on our ancestor’s backs as they marched out of Egypt.

The matzah was eaten both during the bitter years of servitude and as we marched to our freedom. Matzah represents the ups and downs, the failures and triumphs, of despair and perseveration. The matzah at the Seder has a life of its own. It bespeaks memories of horror and pain, of the bitterness of the dark night of exile in Egypt, Spain, Auschwitz, and Siberia. At the same time it symbolizes a story of redemption and salvation, of transcendence and triumph. It represents the human experience, especially the Jewish experience, of the vicissitudes endemic to life.

The matzah speaks volumes but each of us reads the book differently based on our own life experiences. But above all, matzah is a book of hope and anticipation.

Just before we commence the story of the exile at the Seder, we break the middle matzah and hide the bigger half for later. Isn’t that the story of our people? In the darkest and most ominous of times we live with the knowledge and hope that the ‘bigger half’ is hidden away but will emerge in the future, to be eaten as dessert while reclining, in a display of unbridled joy and freedom.

Chag Sameach & Good Yom Tov,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum