by Rabbi Michael Farbman
Temple Emanuel of Greater New Haven, Orange, CT and Chair of New Haven Board of Rabbis and Cantors
Passover seder is known for its questions; they help us focus on what’s important on that night. So with a nod to the much revered tradition, let me offer four questions for Passover 2021.
1. WHY IS THIS NIGHT DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER NIGHTS?
How is this year’s Passover celebration different from the description we find in our books and family lore? Since we can’t safely gather our entire families around the Seder table once again, how will we fulfill the mitzvah?
2. WHY ON ANY OTHER NIGHT DO WE SHOP, COOK AND GO OUT, BUT IN PREPARATION FOR THIS NIGHT WE STAY IN THE KITCHEN FOR DAYS, IF NOT WEEKS, WORKING REALLY HARD?
In preparation for the Passover week and the seder(s), we clean out our houses and cupboards. We are shopping, looking for new recipes, boiling, roasting, baking, chopping and more. All of this to get ready to finally sit down and perform a mitzvah, a commandment to remember that, “we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and our Eternal God led us out from there…” (Passover Haggadah).
No free person can know what it is like to be a slave. But we must keep the memory so that we never take our freedom for granted or let others be enslaved.
3. WHY ON ANY OTHER NIGHT MAY WE CONSIDER HAVING AN ADULT-ONLY DISCUSSION OR CELEBRATION, BUT ON THIS NIGHT WE MAKE SURE OUR CHILDREN, GRANDCHILDREN AND YOUNG FRIENDS ARE WITH US (IN PERSON OR ONLINE)?
We work hard. On all other nights, we may run out of time, knowledge, experience or patience. We may not have the right answers or not hear the questions. On this night, we come together to fulfill the mitzvah to observe this institution [of Passover], for us and for our descendants. We should make it our priority as parents and grandparents, as friends and family, as teachers and rabbis to hear every question, to have the answers, to make this experience meaningful and fun for our children of all ages.
4. WHY ON ALL OTHER NIGHTS DO WE READ AND TELL ALL KINDS OF STORIES, BUT ON THIS NIGHT WE HAVE THE STORY TO TELL?
Some of us like history; some are rather indifferent to it. Some may enjoy reading a historical book while others prefer science fiction or romance. The seder is centered around a narrative that defines us as Jewish people: the story of Exodus. The Haggadah tells us that, “even if we were all wise and discerning, all scholars and experts in Torah, it would still be our duty to retell the story of Exodus…” We come together on that day as individuals and as a community not only to learn our history, but to claim our place in it, to make history happen.
Wherever you will be celebrating Passover this year, may your seders be filled with questions and wonder. Wishing you all a joyous and meaningful Festival of Passover.