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Passover Reflections and a downloadable Passover Kit!


Dear Friends,

One of the highlights of the Passover seder is the reciting of the Four Questions. Many of us remember standing on a chair, singing the few words we knew and seeing how all the adults admired us for this great singing. Not many of us remember exactly those questions and their meanings. So what in these questions made them the staple of the Passover Seder?

Let’s start with the text:

What differentiates this night from all [other] nights?
On all [other] nights we eat chamets and matsa; this night, only matsa.
On all [other] nights we eat other vegetables; tonight (only) marror.
On all [other] nights, we don’t dip [our food], even one time; tonight [we dip it] twice.
On [all] other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining; tonight we all recline.

If we read this carefully, we will notice that it is not clear whether there are four questions or one question here. We can read all the text as a response to the first line – what differentiates this night from all other nights? Then come four answers for this question. This is an essential question that represent our Jewish story from its beginning. According to the biblical story in the book of Genesis when the world was created the first thing that God did was to differentiate, between light and darkness, between water under and water above, and between water and earth.

The act of differentiation and separation is one of the things that help us grow. When kids ask questions, it usually shows that they have curiosity which is essential for their development. We tell the Passover story through these questions not just to make it more interesting and engaging but also to show our deep understanding and internalizing of the story.

When we ask this question on Passover, what is the difference, we acknowledge that we understand how the world works. We understand that there is change is the world, that there is an order and this order is interrupted this night by a different order, as we call this night Seder (order in Hebrew.)

This year the question is echoing even stronger. The world around us has shifted its order and the question of the difference between this night and any other night is stronger. Looking at Israel we ask ourselves what differences this night from all other nights? Here are the four answers we posted on our table in the front lobby: Arbel Yehud is not back home yet, she is still in captivity. Kibbutz Be’eri’s members live in a different Kibbutz these days. Yossi Sharabani, of blessed memory, is not laid to rest. Haim Peri’s 13 grandkids are waiting for him to join their Seder.

The question becomes even harder when we think about these answers and about the Seder that is interrupted this year. How can we celebrate, sing Next Year in Jerusalem, and open our houses to the hungry as we read in the Hagaddah? Many of us wonder whether life continues with its rhythm or we feel the disruption that leads to dispair?

Our Jewish tradition focuses on asking questions, less on their responses. Note that as we mentioned we call this Passover text Four Questions and not one question with four answers. It’s ok not to have a definite answer, it’s ok to come up with various explanations even when they are not complete. However, the question needs to stand and has its own merit. This approach might be important but it’s not necessarily satisfying. What is left for us is hope. When we sing Next Year in Jerusalem we declare that we hope to be in a different place next time, whether it’s physical or not. We believe that event when our questions are not being answered we can expect a difference from this year, and this belief demonstrates our hope.

The poet Iris Eliya Cohen represents this transition from despair to hope in an interesting way that I think can resonate with many of us. She shows us how our simple actions can transform our thinking and our approach to the current situation. It’s a good way to end our Seders this year with this poem and to wish to all of us that next year will be different.

For Weeks I’ve Been Bleeding Poems by Iris Eliya Cohen
(Translated by Jonathan Paradise)

I name the file “sorrow”
I delete Name it “October”
Change it to “7”
Replace it with “chasm”
Change: “chasms”
Name it “hell-like”
I name it “hope”
Command the computer to remember
It responds, “saving hope.”

We have prepared a Passover kit to enhance your holiday. It includes links to many resources, some ideas, recipes, and coloring pages. Click here to download.

Chag Pesach Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Moriah SimonHazani