As a nine year-old day camper, I was literally terror-stricken by another child. No, I was not bullied; there was another camper with a facial deformity who gave me the willies every time I saw her. I had nightmares. I am not proud of this nine year-old version of myself, but I understand it: kids are not always equipped to process such difference. How do we teach our children that vital skill? And how do we push ourselves to include those who are different?
The script of the Seder is a good enough starting place: when we invite kol dichfin yeitei ve-yeichol, “let all who are hungry come in and eat,” we invite those who are not part of our family and friends to join us — we open our hearts and our homes to others. But that’s just a starting point.
The Mishna in Pesachim is clear that in the days of the Pesach sacrifice, one could not invite strangers on the spur of the moment to join a Seder; the chaburah, the group of people eating together, needed to be planned in advance so the korban could be offered with the proper kavannah. If we are to bring strangers in — and we should — we need to plan to do so in advance and can’t just rely on our last minute hospitality to do so. Our family has the zechut to be hosting our Sedarim this year, and we have been planning who to invite and for whom we will widen our family circle for weeks now.
Another lesson comes from this week’s parasha of Metzora, one that my own Rav mentioned last Shabbat and which resonated for me deeply: when it comes time for the metzora to be diagnosed, his diagnostician makes a house call. The Torah tells us that the kohen goes out to him or her el mi-chutz la-machaneh. Admittedly, there are technical reasons for this: the metzora is not yet allowed back due to his or her quarantine. Nonetheless, the image of the kohen making the trip beyond the three concentric camps of Israel is powerful. Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrahi, in his supercommentary on Rashi, emphasizes that the metzora sat all alone waiting for the kohen — he or she cannot keep company with other exiles, and so they sit alone, waiting for the “all-clear” from the kohen, who would come after what must have been a very long seven days.
What do we do to go beyond ourselves, beyond our comfort zones, to reach out to others who are different than we are, to those who are alone, or to those who might be in distress? Pesach, with all its focus on bringing family home again, is a great time to do this.
It was wonderful seeing so many of you at our Dinner last Sunday. As we gather together celebrating our amazing kids, committed families, and our wonderful school, know that your partnership and support is not taken for granted. May we all continue to celebrate together in good health for a long, long time.
We are not just a school – we are a community.