Why is this night different from all other nights?
By Rabbi Mark Melamut
Welcome to your new journey in Jewish spiritual time, as we traverse from Passover to Lag B’Omer (save the date: Lag-er B’Omer Open House BBQ at our home, Thurs, May 10, 6:00pm ) to Shavuot.
Passover is the quintessential holiday of memory, as we recall the story of the Exodus. It is also a holiday that evokes memories from our past – of sitting around a table with family, of cups of sweet wine, of turning over cushions searching for the afikomen, of the crunch and dryness of that first bite of matzah, and of long drawn out or super abbreviated versions of the story. Then there’s the nervousness or excitement of reciting the four questions for the first time, or the naches (joy) when hearing the youngest at the table recite them. Some may not have these memories, being relatively new to the seder experience, but they are working on creating them for their future. Whether remembering the past or envisioning the future, the central question remains, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
Why do we even ask this question? Is it because we can, or because to question is to express our freedom? Is it because asking questions is what keeps us all engaged, even awake and aware at the seder table? Is it because we are hard-wired to ask questions, or because sometimes it’s all that we can do? We know that each year at the seder, the youngest, who is most able at the table to recite them, sings, “ma nishtana halaila hazeh mikol haleilot” (you can almost hear it now), fulfilling the seder’s requirement to ask questions.
Asking questions is a way to connect to the story, to our heritage, and to something more. “The goal of the narrative is to reach the level of involvement at which each person must feel that he/she personally had gone out of Egypt” (R. Greenberg, The Jewish Way, 53) One way we might feel this is to add our own personal questions. After all, over time and experience, our questions change, and this year’s questions may be different than last year’s.
What is our obligation this Passover? Alongside the cleaning, the kashering, the cooking, the telling of the story, and the eating and drinking, I suggest that each of us asks at least one relevant and personal question that seeks to bring meaning to our lives. This night is different, because your questions this year are different.
What I want to know is, “What is your question this Passover?” Please do share your question with me.
Hag kasher v’sameach/a kosher and happy Passover,
Rabbi Mark Melamut