Although it’s too late for this year’s seder(s), I want to share an observation that Rabbi Twerski zt”l (Malchut Shlomo, p.17) made about Seder. He points out that we should go into the seder without any specific expectations. Rather we should enter the experience “as a child with an open heart…. who has only questions”. He warns that if we enter the seder with the idea of receiving particular spiritual inspirations we’ll come out of it with absolutely nothing.
Ironically, the more knowledgeable we are, the greater the danger of thinking that we’ve “got this seder routine figured out”. By anticipating an experience in too great detail, we close our eyes to whatever might actually occur. It takes a lot of courage as well as faith to jump into something, relinquishing our sense of personal control, while allowing it to be whatever it will be.
In many ways, this points to the trend of thinking that each year’s seder has to be “original”, “contemporary”, “timely”, “relevant” and “addressing today’s issues”. Rather than letting go, we want to pre-program the seder experience. A danger here is that while you might well achieve emotional and even intellectual satisfaction, even a sense of creativity, spiritual development will, at the very best, be much less than it could have been. All of us in these times simply lack the technology of our early sages and tzadikim to create a general framework which enables every individual to advance their own, unique spiritual progress.
Of course, you can say that the spiritual side is “just superstition” and that only “objective reality” is “real”. The inference is that the social, political and/or psychological is all there is so the seder should restrict itself to being aimed at “improving” only those dimensions. Once again, that limits our experience to our current understanding and imagination, making the supremely arrogant statement that we already know all that can be known. And, of course, if Rabbi Twerski is correct, that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy since you never learn anything until you realize/admit that you don’t already know everything!
I’m certainly not saying we should jump into every new situation deliberately unprepared. To continue the paradigm of Pesach, we’re mandated to begin studying the laws of Pesach thirty days before, each and every year. But this is to become familiar with the form the Seder will take. But if we approach it as, for example, a unique performance, structured, indeed, but not frozen, we increase our open heart to directly experience the Seder without the intervention/insulation of our expectations.
It takes courage to face any adventure with this kind of open heart and courage. But, as the cliché goes, it’s never easy to be a Jew…..but it sure teaches us a lot!