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My five-year-old son is very subtle. The morning after our Havurah Purim party, my son told me, “You know, not everyone knows what a Purimspiel is.”
“But you do, honey, because we saw one last night. It was the play people were acting out, about Queen Esther.”
He nodded. “But not everyone knows what that is.”
Sometimes my son will start using words correctly and then ask me later what they mean. I’m always sliding new words by him and finding out that he’s picked them up when he handsÂ his dadÂ a board book of the Noah’s Ark story with the request, “Read me the abridged version.” My big challenge is to introduce the words in such a way that he gobbles them up like a little Pac-Man and doesn’t shut off his attention.
This is also my challenge at my job. The difference is that I am writing here for adults who are, generally speaking, highly educated. It’s tempting to use terms that are particular to my generation, like Pac-Man, to my Jewish circles, like Purimspiel, or to my passion for internet slang, like–“your mileage may vary.” (Our president wasn’t familiar with that last one, but he took my word for it that you would be. You are, aren’t you?)
When it comes to Jewish terms, I want to use some, because I want to draw readers into Jewish culture and religion, to empower people and give them a sense that they can participate. But I don’t want to go too far and alienate our readers who aren’t Jews, or Jewish readers who aren’t completely comfortable with the lingo. As my managing editor put it, “You don’t want it to be inside baseball.”
I often find myself in situations where Jewish people who are a lot more impressive than I am view my Jewish knowledge in that “inside baseball” sort of way. It’s crazy to be sitting there with a brain surgeon and have that person impressed with me. For all I know, you are a rocket scientist, reading this post, and I’m not even together enough to find my shoes.
How does the traditional Jewish liturgy for Passover, the haggadah, think about the people attending the Passover seder? It gives us Four Children: one is wise, one is wicked, one is simple, and one doesn’t even know how to ask? We should have another category: one is actually a nuclear physicist, but this is his first seder, so slow down please. If our mission is to be welcoming, we have to remember the one who is not wicked, not simple, can ask just fine–but isn’t ready for inside baseball.
Anyway, I think this Passover-themed video straddles that line just fine. Your mileage may vary.
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