So many traditions shape the Passover Seder, from family to family, and over generations and cultures. However, in the words of Simon Sinek, the “why” of Passover is more important that the “how” and the “what.” Sinek’s book, “Start with Why,” will change how you look at life.
So, starting Passover with “why” is perfect, because the heart of the holiday is knowing the story and understanding why it is still relevant today. This is also why, each year, I challenge others to find new and different Haggadot; each one provides a new twist on an ancient story, while helping us understand the past, the present and the future. Additionally, the Seder is designed to make us ask questions: Why the four cups of wine, why the charoses, why the plagues, why those rabbis in Bnei Brak? The questions go on and on.
The challenge is to encourage questions, and to ask them, at the Seder. No answer is wrong. We learn that from the Talmudic sages, who kept all the answers to Torah questions, even when one was considered the answer to follow. We can now look back to any tractate of Talmud and see the ongoing discussions; that is what questioning is all about.
This brings me to something that happened in my prekindergarten Torah class. One little boy told me he had a book that indicated the fourth plague was a swarm of insects. I had told him that plague was wild beasts, so I told him I would check.
My research took me to four different translations and commentaries; some focused on insects, while others specified wild beasts. When I Googled the issue, I was led to Chabad.org’s “Ask a Rabbi” section. So, I did. Within 24 hours I received this response: The Hebrew word for the fourth plague is arov, which translates into “a mixture.” The more common interpretation is a mixture of wild beasts, though the less common interpretation is a swarm of insects. Then he gave me a link to an article on the topic, which showed I wasn’t the only one asking this question. I was excited to receive the response, but did it work for me or my 4-year-old student? I think he was happy with the answer. But I had more questions.
The most important lesson here is to not stop asking questions, and to be open to exploring different answers. Such an answer could help you today, even if tomorrow you have another question. The best part of being Jewish is that we can keep asking and questioning. We learn more by questioning. So, remember this Passover to add, and ask, questions at every meal you have with family and friends.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.
The ‘why’ of Pesach