The Passover seder is an ethical answer to a series of questions. It is structured as a lesson, the symbolic foods and retelling of the story comes in response to 4 questions (or 4 variations of 1 question) asked traditionally by the youngest person at the table: why is this night different from all other nights?, or in other words, why are we celebrating this holiday?
The story of Passover tells the ancient story of the Exodus. How our ancestors the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, appealed for divine help, and found in Moses a deliverer. How plagues were brought against a stubborn Pharaoh who eventually capitulated. How the Israelites left enslavement only to come to an expanse of water pursued by a vengeful Pharaoh. How the waters were parted and the Israelites left, closing behind them to signify the point of no return.
It is a paradigm of redemption, of moving from narrowness to the expansive, from that which oppresses us to freedom.
In that spirit, and in the spirit of asking questions, here are a few other questions you may wish to ask during this Passover:
- In what ways as a society are we still in Egypt? It what ways personally are you still in Egypt?
- A recent study by the Pew Forum shows that 70 % of Jews celebrate Passover, more than any other ritual practice. Why do you think it is so popular? Why do you celebrate? Why do you not?
- What is your favorite part of the Passover story? What is your favorite part of the Seder?
- When we recite 10 Plagues as part of the retelling of the story, we take one drop of wine out of our glass for each plague. This is to remember the suffering of the Egyptians, or, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls it, “the victims of our victory.” For what/whom else should we take wine out of our glass this year?
- What modern day “plague” should be enough to compel a society to act differently?
- Which symbol on the Seder plate is most meaningful to you? (judging by symbolism only, not taste)
- Passover baked goods that mimic non-Passover baked goods: OK or not?
- What is a favorite Passover memory? Food? Tradition/practice not related to the Seder?
- If you grew up celebrating Passover, how is your observance now the same as when you were younger? How is it different?
- The Torah story relates how the Israelites were in slavery for over 400 years before they were released. Have you ever been in a hole so deep you didn’t think you would ever get out?
- Matzo balls: sinkers or floaters?
- Moses was called by God at the burning bush to redeem the Israelites, but he was reluctant at first. What are you being called to do this Passover, and what is holding you back?
Wishing you a chag sameach (happy holiday) and a week of meaningful questions.