Here’s the truth about Passover—there is only one way to make it meaningful.
If you want to inspire, you must invest. It takes time and energy to research, probe and cultivate an approach to the Seder that works for you and your family.
But the investment is worth the effort! The Seder provides us a window of influence and a unique opportunity to create a deeper and more positive Jewish identity in our children (and you may inspire a guest or two as well).
Be prepared. Come armed with props to pique interest, candies to reward questions, and if you want to avoid the quagmire of the rumbling stomach and the nasty glance, consider enlivening your discussion with four new questions that speak powerfully to what it means to be a Jew in today’s world.
The 4 Passover Questions- Take Two
Question number one: What is the secret behind the mysterious survival of the Jewish people despite the fact that virtually every superpower in history has attempted to squash us?
The Hagaddah tells us: “In every generation our enemies have stood up to annihilate us, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, has saved us from their hands.”
It is amazing when you think about it. So many nations, so much more powerful than us, have tried to wipe the puny Jewish nation off the world map. We are still here, stronger than ever, but where are they? Does anyone out there have a Babylonian dentist? How about a Roman accountant? A Canaanite mechanic? Where are these nations? Gone, disappeared, vanished. And we, the tiny little nation of Israel, are alive and well.
Question number two: Why do you feel privileged to be a Jew? What about being Jewish fills you with the most pride?
The word Hagaddah means to tell, but it also means to bind or join together. Other nations on earth are bound together by common land, language and culture. The Jewish nation is bound together by a story- and it is this very story that we are called upon to transmit on Seder night.
Two nights in the life of a Jew are set aside for the Jewish parent to infuse their children with an understanding and appreciation of the esteemed privilege of being a part of the Jewish people. A parent’s responsibility on Passover is to teach those at the table about who they are, how they fit in to the fabric of Jewish history and how they can play a role in the mission and destiny of our people. That is a lot to do in two nights! No wonder a really satisfactory Seder often ends at 2:00 in the morning.
Question number three: What are some lessons we can learn from the Ten Plagues?
The Torah is wisdom for living, and here’s some wisdom we can all relate to. Did you know that the plague of frogs began when one giant reptile emerged from the Nile River? The Egyptians saw this massive frog and were so infuriated that they began striking it. Each time they struck the frog it spat out dozens of little frogs. They continued hitting it and it continued spitting out more and more frogs until the land was filled with these repulsive reptiles.
Why on earth did they continue to hit the frog? Were they so incredibly stupid? Didn’t they see that their anger was causing them to act in a way that was causing them even more suffering?
Hmmm… Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
When we get angry, when we “lose it,” we can do ridiculously stupid things. And when we do, we are causing ourselves more harm than anyone else. If we snap with our children, our spouse or our co-worker, and end up saying or doing something hurtful to them, aren’t we the ones who lose out in the end? Once in the clutch of fury, our rational minds are paralyzed and we become self-destructive.
We hit the frog all the time! And we do so even though we see with our own eyes that it only results in creating dozens of additional frogs.
Question number four: Where is Moshe? Why isn’t our leader mentioned anywhere in the Haggadah?
When we read the narrative in the Torah surrounding our marvelous extrication from the servitude of Egypt by the direct hand of the Almighty, it seems that it is Moshe (Moses) who has been Divinely casted to play the starring role of the loving shepherd who bravely leads his flock toward freedom.
And yet, open the Passover Haggadah and brace yourself for what seems to be the most glaring literary omission of all times: In the entire recounting of these events in the Haggadah, Moshe is never mentioned!
Judaism has always insisted that every human being has the ability to have a direct, personal and intimate relationship with their Creator and that there is no need for any sort of broker.
In fact, Jewish law forbids employing any form of intercessor in relating to the Infinite.
In order to avoid letting the Jews fall into the trap of seeing Moshe as some form of godly go-between, the author of the Haggadah left him out of the story entirely. It was G-d and G-d alone who removed us from bondage and nobody should make the mistake of thinking that Moses possessed any independent power of his own.
At its core, this is really the very essence of what Judaism is.
I remember that my rebbe in yeshiva once told us that he never saw his mother put a cake in the oven for Shabbos without uttering a personal plea to Hashem to make sure it would come out just right.
That is a personal relationship with G-d. Just you and Him and nobody in between.
As the great Kotzker Rebbe once asked his chassidim: “Where is Hashem?”
“Everywhere!” they replied.
“Wrong!” he answered them. “Hashem is wherever you let Him in.”
Ali and I wish you all a wonderful Passover and two spectacular Seders.
Posted on: Thursday, April 10th, 2014
Author: Rabbi David
About: For more and more students in the Chicago area, Rabbi David is like a personal tour guide into the world of Jewish thought. He is passionate about elucidating timeless Jewish texts to the contemporary mind and leading each student on his or her own personal spiritual journey. His inspiring and insightful teaching style, coupled with his sense of humor and warm approach, has attracted hundreds of students since he began teaching on the North Shore 12 years ago. Rabbi David and Ali have five children, and currently reside in West Rogers Park in Chicago.