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Questions to Spark Your Seder

April 17, 2016 | by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

6 questions that give us a deeper understanding of Passover.

The Passover Seder implants faith within the next generation, creating a link in an unbroken chain back to those who first experienced the miracles of Exodus.

Here are 6 questions that give us a deeper understanding of Passover.

1. Why must we first search for and get rid of every morsel of chametz?

The night before Passover begins we search every nook and cranny for ‘leaven’-chametz. The next morning we burn the leaven. ‘Chametz’ is compared to the ego of a person. Flat matzah alludes to humility. The ‘leaven’ we rid ourselves of represents the negative character traits we should be searching for. It is not just our physical homes we must clean. It is time, too, for a spiritual cleaning. Just as leaven and breads rise, so too does a person’s pride. Arrogance does not allow relationships to flourish. An arrogant person cannot teach, learn, or truly love. He cannot make space for God; his heart is filled with self-love.

Before sitting down to Seder, take steps to search within our hearts and souls. Take a few moments and think about how we have been treating others, reacting to those we live with, and which words we have been using. Only then can we genuinely harness the energy of this incredible night of freedom.

2. Why do we recite the 15 steps of the Seder’s order before we begin?

The word ‘seder’ means ‘order’. Life requires thought; we shouldn’t live randomly. Whenever we take action it’s good to think beforehand. Every word we speak, each text we send should be considered carefully. These 15 steps are the ultimate mindfulness plan. Living purposefully requires setting goals.

The very first step of the Seder is “Kadesh” –reciting Kiddush, sanctification. Exodus was our gift of sanctification and spiritual transformation. From that moment until today we were given the ability to soar. But spiritual connection does not just happen. We must also take a step towards God. Seder night is our time to take that step. It begins with the knowledge that we are sanctified. No Jew should ever give up on himself. We are never beyond hope. Just as God took care of us the night of Exodus, so too, does He take care of us until today. This is what faith is all about.

3. Why ‘Karpas,’ a vegetable dipped in saltwater?

The Seder leader dips a vegetable into saltwater and distributes portions to all. There is a deeper meaning to this seemingly simple act. Vegetables come from the dirt. Seeds are put within the dark ground and one wonders if it will ever sprout. So too, from the depths of slavery and a land of idolatry did our nation flourish. Sometimes we may wonder if the spark within is still alive. We may feel as if we are living in darkness. Our nation seems to be floundering. Never grow despondent. Look at this vegetable that began from a tiny seed in the earth and then burst forth and grew. This is a message to each of us as we begin the Seder night. We will flourish. Each soul has a life source within that can pierce the darkness. Never despair.

4. Why 3 matzahs and 4 cups of wine?

As we harness the miracles of the night it is crucial to establish our roots. We transmit to all who sit at our table that we are a nation who possesses great spiritual DNA. Seven is the number of our original forefathers and mothers. Our three patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as our four matriarchs – Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah – walked before us. They created a path for us, overcame tremendous life challenges and tests so that we would have the fortitude to continue their great legacy. It is only when one knows where they’ve come from that they will be able to know where they are going.

At the Seder take a few moments to speak about the strengths of each of these great ‘zaydies’ and ‘bubbies’ of ours. We are here today because they endowed us with the traits of resilience, compassion, spirituality, collective responsibility, unshakable faith and love of God, desire to learn, and the stamina to never give up despite the odds that speak against us.

5. Why invite hungry people to join us once we are already seated?

Passover is the night of redemption and redemption arrives when we start caring for those who are around us. There are times in life that we don’t realize that we have been kind to the world but those closest to us feel ignored and disparaged. I’ve spoken with husbands, wives and children who live with family members of great community leaders, but when it comes to their very own spouses and kids the silence has been deafening. As we sit together at Seder take a look around the table. “Let all who are hungry come and eat”- let those who are emotionally hungry, anyone who is starving for a kind word, a loving gesture, a moment of listening-this is the time to start showing our sensitivity. Satiate the needs of those who are sitting beside you. Show that you are truly a part of this nation who cherishes kindness, tzedakah and love for family.

6. Why these 4 sons?

The Hagaddah speaks of 4 sons: the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who does not know how to ask. If you think about it, the righteous son is missing. The message is clear. Each of these children presents unique challenges. (Even the wise son may not fit in with peers, dislike the conformity of school and question constantly thinking he knows better). Seder night teaches us that we may not overlook any child. We have been given each soul with the understanding that we will do our best to guide, teach and inspire. Look at a child’s nature and figure out the best response custom-made for that personality. The Hagaddah instructs us to reply to each child’s question with an individual response. Usually we think about teaching the ‘righteous’ or ‘good’ child while other children may be ignored. When transmitting faith we cannot afford to take this approach. Every single child is to be loved and cherished. Each deserves to be engaged.

May we all tap into the power of this great opportunity. Chag Sameach.

Read more inspiring Passover articles here.


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