What makes this night different?

Posted on March 3, 2020

A highlight of the Passover seder is when the youngest child present, sings, “Ma Nishtana ha layla hazeh…” Why is this night different from all other nights?  It’s heart-warming to see the next generation actively participating in one of our most beloved holidays.  Back almost two thousand years ago, in the Mishneh, though tells us that an adult asks this question.  According to this third century Jewish work, if the son doesn’t know what to ask, the father will say, “Ma Nishtana…” and teaches him that this night is different because we eat unleavened bread, i.e., matza, and bitter herbs.  This night we eat roasted meat and dip our vegetables twice.  And then according to the knowledge of the child, the father teaches him how we came out of slavery.

The rituals of the Passover seder are meant to be engaging, interactive, as we bring history to life and celebrate Judaism.  However, we aren’t limited to just ‘four’ questions.  Sitting around the table with the parsley, matza, roasted egg, haroset, and salty water, we are supposed to be inspired to ask and discuss more.  Many of us have our own creative ways to celebrate Passover.  Some of us use new Haggadahs, integrate novel songs, and even props. 

As I’m pondering the seder, I guess I would like to ask, what four questions do you think would be pertinent for us as Jews today around the seder?  Can you come up with your own? What about the following? 

  1. Why do we still observe Passover especially since it happened thousands of years ago and no one is forcing us to do so?
  2. If you were to add a food item to the Passover seder plate, what would it be and why?
  3. What are the blessings and challenges of being a Jew in America today?
  4. What are our values and traditions that we believe are worthy of passing down to the next generation?

I especially like to invite people around the table to share their own immigrant/exodus story.  It’s fascinating to hear why one’s great grandparents left Poland, Germany, or South America to come to the U.S.  I find it helps to appreciate the journey of our ancestors and feel thankfulness for their sacrifices.

We have many wonderful ways to celebrate and learn about Passover.  I invite you to consider coming to any or all of the following:

  1. Elijah- learning about our zealous prophet and miracle worker. Sunday, March 29 at 10:00 a.m. with Rabbi
  2. Tot Shabbat Passover: Saturday, April 4 at 10:30 a.m. this is for our little ones to have a holiday experience followed by a wonderful oneg.
  3. 2nd night Congregational seder-Thursday, April 9 at 6:00 p.m. Food is good, service is engaging and musical. All are welcome.

Chag Sameach!