Who doesn’t love a great story…the rise of the unlikely hero who we come to love, the fall of the narcissistic villain who we come to despise, the seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges, the unexpected twists and turns, and the ultimate resolution and climax!
This may be why Passover has become a family favorite holiday for Jews from all walks of life. After all, the primary Mitzvah of Passover is to gather family around the Seder table and share the most epic story of all time; The Exodus from Egypt.
During the Seder, we champion the underdog and cheer for our reluctant hero, Moses, who undertakes an epic battle for freedom and liberty. We rejoice in the Jewish People’s daring march towards peoplehood and take comfort in the ultimate downfall of the despotic regime that oppressed and tortured them for over 200 years.
And while it is indeed an epic and powerful story, one might ask an obvious question – isn’t it time to update the story we tell at the Seder? Or better yet, why not create a Marvel-Like franchise that includes all the other heroic stories our people have experienced as a continuation and outgrowth of the Exodus story throughout the millennia? We live in a time when people love to spend hours upon hours binge watching entire seasons of episodic content!
After all, we’ve been gathering our families around the table, reading the same Haggadah and telling the same story at our Seder for over 3,330 years, can’t we get a sequel?
Clearly, there is something unique about the Seder and retelling this story that keeps it relevant and timeless. But what is the secret sauce of the Seder experience? What is the unique dimension of the Seder that makes this story different from all other stories?
When it comes to understanding the art of storytelling, my favorite insights come from one of the most prolific storytellers of all time, the Maggid of Dubno.
The Maggid of Dubno, a brilliant 17th century sage, was famous for inspiring the masses and teaching deeply meaningful concepts of Torah through the eloquent art of storytelling and unique parables.
The Maggid was once asked his secret to great storytelling; to crafting parables that were so engaging, on target, and relatable to his audiences.
The Maggid thought for a moment and then, as you might have guessed, answered the question with the following parable:
Once upon a time, a traveler found himself in a deep and dense forest. Soon he came upon a grouping of hundreds upon hundreds of trees that had archery targets painted on their trunks. As the traveler came closer, he was astonished to find each and every target had a single arrow shot precisely into the center of it’s bulls-eye!
The traveler was awed. How was it possible for an archer to hit the precise center of the bulls-eye on each and every one of the hundreds upon hundreds of targets?
And so, the traveler set out on a quest to find this master archer and learn his secret. Soon he arrived at a nearby town, found the master archer, and implored him to share the secret to his inexplicable precision and marksmanship.
The archer smiled broadly and said the secret was really very simple, “You see,” he said smugly, “most archers take careful aim at the center of the target, adjust for wind-resistance, exhale deeply, and then let the arrow fly. But I don’t bother with all of that nonsense! I simply take aim at the trunk of the tree and release my arrow. Then I walk over to the tree and paint the target around the arrow. Bulls-eye every time!
Perhaps, this is the true secret of our storytelling during the Seder. On Passover, the story of Exodus may be the arrow – but each of us play the role of the master archer who paints the target!
It is up to us, the storytellers, to do more than just tell the story of Passover through a historical lens. It is our Mitzvah to dig deeply into our own souls and share how this story has guided our personal narrative and journey as well.
This same story is told through the unique lens of millions upon millions of master archers each and every Passover. And like a prism that refracts light, the nuances and colors of each story will be organically the same but vibrantly different.
Each storyteller will gather their own families with their unique circumstances around their own Seder table to share their own story.
Each storyteller will draw from his or her individual perspective and life’s journey towards understanding and expressing their freedom; artfully painting their intended target as the backdrop to this timeless narrative. A backdrop that is deeply personal, meaningful, and relatable for all whom are blessed to share that Seder table.
Over the past 3,330 years the trappings of life, the landscape of our world, and the psychology of the populace may have changed dramatically – but the deep truths of Torah, its principals and values, and our human search for meaning, purpose and fulfillment have remained very much the same.
At our Seder this year, let’s be sure that our arrow finds the bulls-eye by reflecting deeply on our own personal experience to paint the target around the Passover story, for that is the story that only we can share with our children. That is the story they have gathered around the table to hear, and deep in their hearts, they know that in time, our story will guide their story.
Rabbi Robbie Tombosky serves as the Rabbi and spiritual leader of Beth Jacob Young Professional’s in Beverly Hills, California. He is a sought after teacher and speaker and is passionate about helping families & individuals express their deepest values through meaningful self-exploration and purposeful living.