Contributed by Rabbi Mendy Greenberg, Mat-Su Jewish Center - Chabad Lubavitch
There are many ways to share a story. In choosing the proper genre, the storyteller must know the intended crowd and prepare accordingly.
Passover is a time where Jewish people across the globe gather in homes or synagogues with family, friends or complete strangers and observe the traditional Seder dinner. An integral element of the Seder tradition is revisiting the narrative of the miraculous redemption of the Jewish nation from Egyptian slavery in 1313 B.C.E. Like everything on this consequential evening, there is a specific method to the storytelling of the exodus.
The Seder was designed with the intention of piquing the child’s curiosity, bringing about the realization that this night is different from all other nights. Upon noticing nuanced changes to the nightly dinner routine, the child catches on to the more radical and essential differences that are occurring. After the child unabashedly expresses puzzlement with the goings on, the parent is obligated to respond by explaining the dynamics of that historic event in our history.
Even if there are no children at the table – the genre of the story remains the same: Educational. It is geared to engage the innocence of youth and a sensory experience throughout.
The message of education pulses through the theme of the entire festival. The freedom granted to the Jews over three millennia ago was the opportunity to educate. I am not referring to literacy and mathematics, of which the Jews had a thriving educational system during the two centuries of Egyptian slavery. However, it was an education devoid of meaning and purpose, steeped in the local cultural swamp of idolatry and the promotion of self.
Moses’s famous message to Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” was part of a crucial context so often overlooked. As recorded in the Bible, the full sentence reads (Exodus 10:3), “So says the God of the Hebrews, let my people go so that they may serve Me.”
This was not merely a protest against a gross violation of human rights, rather an urgent call to allow a nation to realize their full potential. The opportunity to transcend the self and connect with the divine. Moses was not offering a vacation from harsh labor, he was leading the Jews a loftier service and goal.
This universal message reverberates today more than ever. We are blessed to live in an era of unprecedented educational success, yet so many feel a lack of direction and purpose.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, global spiritual leader in our generation, taught that education, in general, should not be limited to the acquisition of knowledge and preparation for a career; rather the educational system must pay more attention, indeed the main attention, to the building of character, with emphasis on moral and ethical values. To live life with the awareness that every positive action can have a profound impact on our universe.
“Education and Sharing Day USA” was established by the US Congress in 1978, in recognition of the Rebbe’s lasting contributions towards the betterment of humanity by improvements in education, morality and acts of charity; teaching the next generation of Americans the values that make our country strong. The Rebbe was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, and his birth date was established by Congress as a national day to raise awareness and strengthen education. Over the last four decades, the presiding US presidents have paid recognition to the Rebbe’s visions each year on this day by proclaiming it “Education & Sharing Day USA”.
This year, the idea of Education and Sharing Day was emulated in many states and cities across the country. I am proud to share that Governor Bill Walker signed a proclamation designating April 7th as Education and Sharing Day, for the state of Alaska.
The governor has emphasized that excellence in education is vital to the success of our nation and our state, and that education must blend the nurturing of the heart and mind, building character through lessons on honesty, integrity, tolerance and citizenship, in addition to developing intellect and becoming career ready through lessons on history, language, science, math, engineering and technology (STEM), career and technical education (CTE), the arts and other essential subject matters.
He further noticed that the character of our young people is strengthened by serving a cause greater than self and by the anchor of virtues, including courage and compassion and that by instilling a spirit of service in our children, we create a more optimistic future for them and our state.
In his letter, the governor expresses his deep gratitude to the Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson, for being a tireless advocate for youth around the world, and for placing great emphasis on the importance of education and good character, which is evidenced by his involvement in the establishment of over 5000 educational and social institutions in all 50 states, including Alaska, and throughout the world.
In his proclamation, the governor called on all Alaskans to set aside April 7th, 2017 as an Education and Sharing Day in Alaska. The governor is encouraging all Alaskans to pursue education and service, and to give of themselves to create a better, brighter and more hopeful future for all.
This certainly reflects our values as Alaskans.