In helfman, Third

What makes this Pesach different from all other P’sachim?

By Rabbi Jordan Helfman.

Questions, even the most irreverent, seed the freedom that we celebrate tonight.
Rebecca Newberger

In the comfort of our homes, we will recline, asking philosophical questions about liberty and freedom.  As we reach the fourth cup, for many the tradition shifts into and out of politics, sports, and family drama.

We will ‘remember when’ and ‘can’t you believe’ each other as the famous matzah balls make their way around, sinking or swimming as is our families’ practice.

But maybe young children, a new city, a broken family, ‘complications’ with people or with Judaism will keep us away from these questions.  Or will present different questions about where we are coming from, and to where we are going.

Pesach is the time for questions both serious and playful, the four questions and the four sons, questions about what grounds us and what we can do to get others onto safe footing.

One way we can ask these questions is as a community providing food directly to those in need. Visit to join our Out of the Cold guests, Ve’ahavta’s clients and other members of this sacred community as we let all who are hungry join us at our synagogue’s tables for a seder-quality meal.
Another way we can ask these questions is through reflection and music.  Both on the first day of Passover with the help of an original composition and on the seventh night with the help of a musical setting of the Haggadah, Cantor Maissner has arranged for music that will help us understand ourselves through our tradition.

As we begin to clean out our chametz, consider what questions of freedom need answering on the personal level and for the larger community.

[feature_box title=”Here are four questions to help us prepare:” title_color=”fff” header_color=”369″]
  1. Rebecca Newberger writes of the Wicked Son, “There is a son who sits at the table, harboring an irreverent question, one that challenges the assumptions that have brought this family to this table for many generations.  If the struggles with the question lead him away from the answers of his father, what then?”
  2. Lemony Snicket  writes of the Wise Parent, “‘Listen closely, because you are younger than I am,’ says the Wise Parent, ‘and I will go on and on about Jewish history based on some foggy memories of my own religious upbringing , as well as an article in a Jewish journal I have recently skimmed.’  Are you this wise parent, or are you a parent who is able also to inquire?
  3. Retold by Martin Buber is a story of a man who is woken by his wife, who asks, “Why don’t you celebrate seder like all the other Jews?”  Said I: “What do you want from me? I am an ignorant man, and my father was an ignorant man.  And I don’t know what to do and what no to do. But there is one thing I know: Our fathers and mothers were in captivity… and we have a God that led them out into freedom.” What is your simple answer as to why we have a seder?
  4. The Hassidic teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Maggid of Nadvorna writes, “It is good to hope in silence for the salvation of God.” It is good to hope for the salvation of God, while being silent about oneself.  By bringing yourself into silence, you merit to bring about the emergence of the Divine Word.  This is also the meaning of the fourth child: ‘The one who does not know how to ask, you open for him.’”  Do you know how to leave space for silence in yourself?


Let these questions start us on our journeys towards Pesach.

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