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3. Karpas - Appetizer

3. Karpas - Appetizer

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Take a small piece of some edible vegetable (potato, onion, etc.)

We're doing everything we can to spark questions from the children. If they say, “Hey mom and dad! The table is all set for a grand dinner. Aren’t we supposed to eat real food now? Why just this little itty-bitty piece of vegetable?” -- then you know you’re doing things right.

What do you answer them? You say, “We're doing this so you will ask questions.” And if they say, “So what’s the answer?” -- just repeat, as above. That’s the best answer. Because you can’t learn if you don’t ask questions. And the first thing to learn is that not all questions have answers.

That’s a distinctive mark of Jewish education: More than we teach our children how to answer, we teach them how to ask -- and how to be patient in their search for answers.

Dip it into saltwater.

Like our earlier reclining with our cup of wine, we're engaging in a display of expansiveness and sovereignty, mimicking the custom of nobility and hoity-toity folk to precede their meals with an bite of appetizer dipped in a dip.

Also: karpas (the Hebrew word for "greens" and "vegetable") read backwards forms an acronym of a phrase meaning "600,000 [were enslaved with] spirit-breaking labor," and the saltwater in which it is dipped are the tears they shed.

This duality will repeat itself throughout to Seder. Telling the story of the Exodus means reliving how things were before (slavery and suffering) and what was achieved (freedom). We'll drink wine (joy, liberty) and we'll eat the maror (bitterness, slavery). At times, the same food or ritual will embody both aspects.

Say the blessing for vegetables ("Borei Pri Haadamah"), and have in mind also the "bitter herbs" we'll be eating later. Munch it down.

Munch good. You’re not going to get much more for a while.

Soul

We need to re-taste the breaking labor of Egypt to liberate ourselves from it once again. It was this labor that prepared us for freedom. It was this labor that gave us a humble spirit to accept wisdom.

Today, as well, you can choose to achieve this humble spirit by enduring the battle to survive the rat race. There will be plenty of futile, hamster-wheel tasks to bring you to your knees.

Or you could choose another path: achieving true humility with the realization of just how small we earthly creatures are. That will free you from the need to experience materialistic futility.

Choose your battle. It’s up to you.

Readings and Resources
The Pilfering of Infinity
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