Dear Beit Sefer Families,
This week I am in the midst of seeing friends performing theater. There is something special about watching people, especially ones you know and care about, share their spirit and their souls on stage. Theater uses words, music, costumes, sets, props, and lights, to tell a story. Next week we will each gather in our homes to theatrically tell a shared story. At our Passover seders, we read and the tell the narrative of the Exodus as told through the Rabbinic discussions. We enact moments of the story through rituals with food, and we add rituals and elements to our seders that share individual stories and histories as well as the collective ones.
There is a line in the Haggadah, “In every generation each person must imagine herself as if she came out of Egypt.” The magic “if” is an important idea in contemporary theater. Constantin Stanislavki, an early 20th century pioneer of our current styles of acting, taught that actors need to approach the moment on stage as “if.” What if you found yourself in the same circumstances of the character? How would you react? Actors make the world of pretend feel as real as possible by working with the magic “if.” On Passover, we are all asked to be actors, and to imagine through our senses as “if” we ourselves had come out of Egypt. The Haggadah is our script, the food on the table our props; we sing the music and costumes are optional. As we tell our story, we imagine ourselves having escaped bondage into freedom.
Why imagine that we ourselves are part of the story? Why not just tell a story of the past? Why the theatrical approach? Just as contemporary theater has the capacity to open our hearts and minds to the human experience, perhaps the Passover seder is asking us to go below the surface, to use our human power of empathy to uncover deeper meanings. Perhaps we have to imagine ourselves at the dark depths of human experience in order to appreciate the light in our lives. Perhaps we have to remember our own suffering in order to respond to the suffering of others.
What will move and inspire you to imagine yourself as “if” you were just freed from slavery?