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March 30, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 30, 2012

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 30, 2012 I Storytelling lends even more magic to the Exodus saga By Dasee Berkowitz Egypt," as it says in the Hag.- can make the ancient tradi- take on a purifying aspect for NEW YORK (JTA) My children have carved out a role-for me as storyteller, especially at bedtime. After reading the requisite three book's cuddled on my son's bed, he makes a soft demand: "Now tell a story." In the late hour, my mind wanders to the outskirts of creativity. To produce a little late-night magic, superpower strength and some basic facts are mixed together in the telling. But instead of drift- ing off to sleep, my son stays keenly engaged interject- ing, questioning, elaborating and correcting. When a story gets really good he'll insist On acting out parts. While I never really follow a straight narrative iineho can keep any logical sequencing so late atnight? eventuallywewind up with a happy ending. Storytelling is essential to being human; it's the way we make sense of our lives and derive meaning. Telling (and retelling) the same story as a group can have the same effect. It gives us a sense of who we are and shapes how we act and interact with the world around us. During the Passover sea- son, we all become storytellers par excellence. The Exodus from Egypt is one of the central Jewish storylines. At the most basic level, we are commanded to "tell your child" the story of the Exodus and "all that the Lord did for me when I left gadah. But if we were only to tell the literal story, we would open up the book of Exodus and begin reading. We don't. With our Haggadahs in hand, we weave together a powerful story, filled with it's own kind of magic, which includes ritu- als and texts that date from the Bible, the Mishnah and the Midrash. With the stated goals that "in every generation one should see oneself as if one had [personally] gone out of Egypt," we are invited to add our own voice to the story. In fact, the Haggadah states, "all who expound upon the Pass- over story shall be praised." Reading ourselves into the story of the Exodus of Egypt is essential to the Passover ritual. As Avivah Zornberg, a Torah scholar pointed out in a radio interview onAmerican Public Media,."It's not telling the story soas to remember what happened: It happened so as to be the stimulus for a ... meaningful story." In the end, she said, "you might find yourself telling a better story than what is actually written in the text. So long as there is some connection." And while "storytelling" on seder night might be known as one of the longest storytelling hours around ("when are we going to eat, already?"), how will the story about the Exodus from Egypt become relevant to you as you retell it this Pass- over? What will be your way? Are you a parent or grand- parent wondering how you tion come to life for your children and grandchildren? Seder night is the quint- essential teaching tool. We encourage children to ask questions and seek answers. Toward the very beginning of the maggid, the "telling," are the Four Questions. When the youngest at the table (whether a toddler, a teenager or a young adult) reads the questions, create an opening and see what kinds of questions the children might have about Passover. For the young ones, it might be about what they see on the seder table (add some things to pique their interest, like candies or plastic frogs). For older children, the questions might have to do with the central themes of the seder, llke what freedom from slavery really means for us todlay. Are you a spiritual seeker? Focus on'your preparation for Passover this year. The ritual of "bedikat chametz," searching for leavened bread, offers a perfect opportunity. Chametz symbolizes excess and all that "puffs us up." By contrast, matzah is simple food without any of the ex- tra leavening to complicate matters. Passover is a time to return to simplicity. As we dust away the crumbs in our search, consider the things that "puff you up" or get in yourway of connecting to your true essence. Then take those last pieces of crumbs and burn them the next morning. T.his cleansing of your home might you personally. Are you unhappy with the status quo? Just think about how many questions there are through- out the Haggadah. The Four Questions at the start of the seder, then another set of questions that the four chil- dren ask. The questions aren't placed there just to engage children. Asking questions is a profound act; it signifies that we are unsettled and eager to move things forward. Asking questions is liberating. And before any question is asked, at the very start of the maggid we say, "This is the bread of affliction ... Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat ... This year we are here; next year may we be in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves; next year may we be free people." The positioning of the statement about the bread of affliction right before the Four Questions makes a profound statement. Perhaps we need to first envision the ideal situa- tion and then ask questions as away of shaking up the status quo and potentially achieving profound social change. What questions do you have for yourself this Passover that can make steps toward that change ha.ppen? Are you (or are your guests) marginally connected to Jew- ish life? When we come to the sec- tion of the four children, we read that in response to the simple child, who doesn't Courtesy Dasee Berkowitz Dasee Berkowitz practicing her reading and storytelling skills with son Morris. know how to ask a question, as "patakh lo," ordinarily translated as "you prompt him," but literally means "you open him up." How might you engage those at your seder table who don't see themselves as a part of the Jewish story? Consider asking them about their personal history andthe Passover memories they have from their parents and grand- parents. Have them share those memories at the table. During "Dayenu," after reading the traditional sec- tion, invite your guests to add their own words of"dayenu." Move from the global to the local and the personal. Some examples might include glob- al concerns, such as "When we care for our environment the way we care for our own backyards, dayenu"; local ones, such as "When we care for the homeless in our com- munity the way we care for our own families, dayenu"; and personal ones, like "When we cherish our Jewish inheri- tance, thewaywe cherish fine jewels, dayenu." Encourage people to make up their own versions. The seder experience re- quires us to be engaged storytellers, not passive par- ticipants. While the storytine might meander a bit from the scriptwe have before us, as my late-night musings with my children, strive to see yourself inside the Passover story. What is the story you need Passover to tell you this year? New books: cleaning robots, other. But Rachel Galinsky and David Lippa are in love and plot a scheme, along with the village rabbi, to end the feud and bring the village together for the Passover seder. When it's ltime to open the door to wek:ome Elijah, the hope of the prophet's presence helps heal the bitter and angry hearts of the parents. Alexi Natchev's beautifully colored block prints evoke an Old World feel but also are playful and filled with ex- pressive detail and movement "The Wooden Sword" Ann Redisch Stampler, illustrated by Carol Liddiment Albert Whitman ($16.99); ages 5-8 While "The Wooden Sword" does not have explicit refer- ences to Passover, the picture book of an Afghani folk tale includes a'character who dis- guises himself in a visit to a family--a theme reminiscent of Elijah the Prophet stories of- ten told at Passover. The tale is one that was part of Jewish life in Afghanistan for more than a thousand years, according to Ann Redisch Stampler, who won a National Jewish 'Book award for her retelling of the Yiddish folktale "The Rooster Prince of Breslov." In "The Wooden Sword," an Afghani shah slips out of his palace late one flight disguised as a servant. He is welcomed into the home of a young shoe- maker and his wife celebrating the Sabbath The shah wonders how such poor people could be so happy. The shoemaker tells his mysterious visitor he has Courtesy Kar-Ben Publishing In "Jodie's Passover Adventure," Jodie and her American cousin Zach discover ancient secrets on their exploration of Hezekiah's Tunnel in the Old City of Jerusalem. faith in God that life will turn Margaret Lewis, illustrated by out as it should be. Despite a Tom Mills Albert Whitman series of edicts issued by the ($9.99); ages 2-5 shahtotesttheman'sfaith, the A fun lift-the-flap book shoemaker remains content introduces young children to in his belief in God. The poor the customs and foods of Pass- butwiseshoemakereventually over with easily understand- who teaches the shah about able explanations and large, faith and persistence, brightly colored, cartoon-like Carol Liddiment's paintings illustrations."I am a mixture of portray what Afghani village apples, nuts, and a little wine. life might have looked like I am tasty and sweet," reads with colorfully embellished the opening left-hand page. A clothing, floor pillows for sit- bowlful of red apples and nuts ting on during meals, men in is the clue. turbansandthewifewearinga Lift the "What am I?" flap headscarf. In an author's note, on the right, and kids will Stampler explains how she be surprised by a young boy came to this Jewish retelling and his grandmother making of the Afghani version of the charoset, reminding everyone story. The book sparks oppor- of mortar used to build the tunities for discussion about pyramids. Other pages reveal Afghanistan as well as con- othersederplatesymbols, holi- versation about the diversity day candles, a Haggadah and a of Jewishlifearoundtheworld. kids' favorite, leaping frogs, to "WhatAmI?Passover "Anne explain the Ten Plagues. BOSTON (JTA)--Avacuum- like robotthat cleans the house and a spunky Israeli girl on an underground adventure in Jerusalem are among the characters featured in ne.w children's books for Passover. This year's crop offers more than the typical retellings of the Exodus story. Two books have Passover as a backdrop for entertaining and imagi- native storytelling that can spark conversation about the popular holiday's many rituals and traditions. One retells an Afghani folk tale that gives families a chance to discover Jewish life in an unfamiliar part of the world. A lift-the -flap format book is aimed at the younger crowd. Here' a look at this year's Passover book offerings for kids: "Izzy the Whiz and Passover McClean," Yael Mermelstein, illustrated by Carrie Hartman Kar-Ben ($17.94 hardcover; $7.95 paperback); ages 3-8 In this delightful rhyming tale, .Izzy invents a cleaning machine to help his mother in the ritual house cleaning before the start of Passover. Mom takes a rest and leaves Izzy in charge. Think Dr. Seuss meets robot vacuum cleaner: "Izzy pressed the red button, McClean lurched and whirred, He cranked the green handle, it belched and it purred. The hungry machine chomped ten books for its lunch. Gobbled the rug, and continued to munch." Trouble of the "Cat in the By Penny Schwartz Hat"-type follows, of course, but all is neatly tidied up before the start of the seder. Hart- maca's cartoon-like illustra- tions are playful and lively--a perfect fit for the zany fun of this entertaining book. "Jodie'sPassoverAdventure" Anna Levine, illustrated by Ksenia Topaz Kar-Ben ($1Z95 hardcover; $7.95 paperback; $12.95 ebook); ages 5-9 Award-winning author Anna Levine and artist Ksenia Topazas, paired for the second time, bring ancient Jewish history alive in an adventure tale story featuring Jodie, a spunky Israeli gift who dreams of being an archeologist like her father. Jodie invites her visitingAmerican cousin Zach, along with her older brothers, for an underground explora- tion of Hezekiah's Tunnel, the famous secret water passage in Jerusalem's Old City. There are secrets to discover about how the tunnel was dug in ancient times, along with. spooky shadows and atreasure. After the adventure, the famil9 enjoys a Passover picnic in an outdoor park. "The Elijah Door, APassover Tale" Linda Leopold Strauss, illustrated by Alexi Natchev This folklore set in an Old World town (at times Poland, at times Russia) explores the Lippa and Galinsky families, who shared their lives and celebrated holidays together before the parents have a fool- ish argument over geese and hens. The families stop talking and even board the door be- tween their two houses, using side doors to avoid seeing each Courtesy Kar-Ben Publishing In "izzy the Whiz and Passover McClean," a robot cleaner creates chaos during the pre-holiday house cleaning. Jerusalem tunnel adventures and an Old World feud