Traditionally, the youngest at the table says the four questions at the seder. This is one of the highlights of the entire evening, at least for the adults. The person reciting them tends to be relieved when they are over.
Notice I have used the words “says” and “recites,” not “asks” the four questions. One of the ironies of Passover is that we train the children to ask specific questions in advance, and then give them our prepared answers. That is not the original intention.
The purpose of the four questions is to provide a model of what kind of questions might be asked. The beginning is usually translated as “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The actual translation, though, is “What has been transformed?” Most of what we do at the seder was pretty typical of a lavish Roman era meal, with a couple of slight changes. The idea behind many of the rituals of the seder is to do things a little differently from the norm, in order that children on their own will notice the changes and ask about them. We then answer them based on their questions, and not just with our previously prepared responses.
The seder is meant to stimulate critical thinking. It is meant to teach people to ask difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions, until we reach the truth, or at least strive for it honestly.
We Jews as a people are in an interesting place. In some ways it is the best time ever to be Jewish. There are more opportunities to learn about Judaism than any time in our history. There is an independent Jewish state for the first time in thousands of years. There are great challenges, too. There is conflict between the denominations, and differences in opinions on how to handle the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The best thing you can do is ask the difficult questions, and not settle for easy answers. It is better that people challenge the system instead of walking away. Our survival as a people, our greatness, is that we are not just obligated to teach each generation about Judaism, but how to make it their own.
I hope that Passover this years brings you further on the road to spiritual and intellectual freedom, and that you find joy in your discoveries.
2 Replies to “Passover-The Holiday that Questions itself”
I love this. I am printing it and reading it at our seder.
I am going to use this as the theme for this years seder. It’s not the 4 questions but rather the well framed questions that stimulate discussion. It’s even better if the leaders don’t know the answers because the process is what informs us all.