Last night’s Seder put me back on a soapbox. The title of this week’s column is the English translation of the entire lyric of a Hebrew song (“Henay Matov”) that I learned in the first grade at Hebrew School. Another line may have added to it later, for choral purposes. However, for me the one line says it all – and I don’t see the word “brothers” as meaning brothers of one tribe only.
While saying YES to every request every person makes of us or saying YES to threats of harm or subjection means we’re saying NO to ourselves – saying NO to being with people, just because they aren’t like us, is saying NO to ourselves. This subject may appear trite in recent years – yet, at our Seder; we discussed how this still happens.
I remember discussing the song in Hebrew school and all of us agreeing that we wanted to add people of every race, nationality, religion, hair color, height, intellectual ability, athletic ability, etc. etc. etc. We wanted to be able to be friends with every boy and girl in the world, should we be lucky enough to get to meet everyone. We all thought it was silly for us not be playing together with kids of all colors and religions where we were! I was six years old when I first engaged in this conversation. There was no state of Israel yet. The year was 1946. Israel has gained it’s independence since then and we now recognize China, forgotten we were at war with Japan and we’ve granted Native Americans the right to operated casinos.
We’ve made some progress. That seems evident. However, why we should still need to make progress beats me! What is in the way of humans handling the issue of being afraid of people who are different than they are? I say afraid because I think that’s what it all boils down to. Where afraid that saying YES to THEM is saying NO to US. Why aren’t those of us in any general location sitting together with all the different groups in our area? I’m not speaking about every one of every color, religion, sex, etc. sitting together. That would be physically impossible to do at any one time. I also don’t mean people who have mental problems that have led them to adopt criminal tendencies. I’m talking about some people still worrying about mixing with people of another color, religion, etc. – about people who are different, according to society.
I probably have it easier than many people because I live in the heart of New York City. There’s a lot of intermingling here and my building and neighborhood, which I’ve told you in past posts, is near the UN. I feel blessed that people from all countries on Earth live here. We socialize and the little kids play together in the park and many of the little kids go to school together. I’m so glad for these children. They’re learning love for different people at a very early age. I’m sure you’ve heard Vladimir Lenin’s quote: “Give me a child for the first 5 years of his life and he will be mine forever!” – and Hammerstein’s lyric also comes back to me, yet again: “You’ve got to be carefully taught!”
Since I became divorced in 1976, I’ve been the traditional “Second Seder Lady” for my son. Last night our Seder, which my son led, had both Jews and non-Jews at the table. We usually include guests of different religions and beliefs. This was the first year one couple was to our Seder. I was invited to their Easter dinner, which I’ll attend tonight. This wonderful couple was married just last summer. They’re Christian and they’re both male.
How Good And Wonderful It Is For Brothers To Sit Together (Say Yes Together) In Peace!