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Shabbat to Shabbat: A Time to Ask Questions

04/06/2017 04:41:07 PM


Beth Schafer

Passover: A time to ask questions and tell stories

Passover is our holiday of liberation and a time to ask questions, four to be exact. Why do we ask questions? To elicit answers, to tell stories. We explain the seder and retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt so that another generation will feel the importance of becoming a free people. At my seder table when the kids were little and even now, we had a tradition. To give the kids incentive to ask questions beyond the prescribed four, and to keep the storytelling as a central theme of our seder, we rewarded every question with a marshmallow. My marshmallow hurling skills got decent over the years and it was not uncommon to see marshmallows flying across the table to the engaged kids who asked us for information and begged us to tell stories of Passovers of old. 

We also talk of four types of children at the seder: the wise, the wicked, the simple and the one who does not know what to ask. I heard an interpretation of these children, not as children who sit side-by-side at the table, but rather, as representing generations of modern Jews. The Wise generation lived pre-Holocaust and enjoyed a fruitful, knowledgeable Jewish life. The Wicked generation was the post-Holocaust generation who turned away from Judaism because it was associated with persecution and death. The generation that succeeded the wicked generation was Simple because their parents had distanced themselves from tradition and could not teach their children the particulars of being Jewish. Finally, the next generation became so removed from the Jewish story that they didn’t even know what questions to ask anymore.

This Pesach as we gather around for our seders, I encourage you to tell stories: in addition to the story of Passover itself, tell stories of your Jewish life, your family traditions, the people who are no longer with you who have since passed, stories of personal liberation and of gratitude. Don’t let this generation or the next become removed from our rich heritage. Whether or not you are rewarded with a marshmallow, your seder will be that much sweeter having made the experience relevant and engaging to those gathered at your table.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a Zissen Pesach,



Tue, August 4 2020 14 Av 5780