To be curious is the first quality of the wise. Wise people know that they do not know and they learn something from everyone they meet (Avot 5:1).
The Passover Seder will soon be upon us, and there is much about the Seder itself that is a mystery. Nothing is as it seems. Everything stands for something else. Deeper truths are there for the seeker. Everything in the Seder suggests questions.
I have compiled a list of questions that might be sent in advance to your Seder participants or asked around the table during the Seder itself. These aren’t exhaustive. Add your own questions.
As no marathon runner would show up at the starting line without preparation and training, neither should we show up at our Seder tables without thinking seriously in advance about the themes and truths of this season. Now is the time to begin the questioning and probing.
Afikoman – When we break the Matzah
Questions: What part of us is broken? What work do we need to do to effect tikun hanefesh – i.e. restoration of ourselves? What t’shuvah – i.e. return, realignment of our lives, re-establishment of important relationships – do we need to perform to bring about wholeness? What’s broken in the world – i.e. what remains unfair, unjust, unresolved, in need of our loving care and attention – and what am I/are we going to do about it?
Mah Nishtanah – How is this night different from all other nights?
Questions: How am I different this year from previous years? What has changed in my life this year, for better and/or for worse? What ‘silver lining’ can I find in my disappointments, frustrations, loss, illness, pain, and suffering? What conditions in our communities, nation and world have worsened since last we sat down for the Pesach meal?
Ha-Chacham – The Wise Child
Questions: Who inspired you this past year to learn? Who has been your greatest teacher and why? What are the lessons you have learned from others that have touched you most in the year gone by?
Ha-Rasha – The Evil Child
Questions: Since Judaism teaches that the first step leading to evil is taken when we separate ourselves from the Jewish community and refuse to participate in acts that help to restore justice in the world, have we individually stepped away from activism? Have we become overcome by cynicism and despair? Do we believe that people and society succumb inevitably to the worst qualities in the human condition, or do we retain hope that there can be a more just and compassionate world? Are we optimistic or pessimistic? Do we believe that people and society can change for the better? Are we doing something to further good works, or have we turned away into ourselves alone and given up?
Cheirut – Thoughts about Freedom
Questions: If fear is an impediment to freedom, what frightens me? What frightens the people I love? What frightens the Jewish people? Are our fears justified, or are they remnants of experiences in our individual and/or people’s past? Do they still apply? Are we tied to the horrors of our individual and communal traumas, or have we broken free from them? What are legitimate fears and how must we confront them?
Tzafun – The Hidden Matzah
Questions: What have we kept hidden in our lives from others? Are our deepest secrets left well-enough alone, or should we share them with the people closest to us? To what degree are we willing to be vulnerable? Have we discovered the hidden presence of God? Have we allowed ourselves to be surprised and open to wonder and awe? If so, how has such recognition changed us?
Sh’fach et chamat’cha – Pour out your Wrath
Questions: Is there a place for hatred, anger and resentment in our Seder this year? How have these negative emotions affected our relationships with each other, the Jewish community, the Jewish people, the Palestinians, the State of Israel, with any “other”? Have we become our own worst enemy because we harbor hatred, anger and resentment? Do the Seder themes and symbolism address our deeply seated anger, hatred and resentment?
Ba-shanah Ha-ba-ah Bi-y’ru-shalayim – Next Year in Jerusalem
Questions: What are your hopes and dreams for yourself, our community, country, the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the world? What are you prepared to do in the next year to make real your hopes and dreams?