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“Why is this night different from all other nights?”
The question is central to the telling of the Passover story and is followed in the traditional Seder with four more that elaborate on the holiday rituals:
1. On all other nights we eat either leavened and unleavened bread. Why on this night do we eat only unleavened bread?
2. On all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs. Why on this night do we eat only bitter herbs?
3. On all other nights we need not dip our herbs even once. Why on this night do we need to dip twice?
4. On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining. Why on this night do we recline?
These classic questions still hold meaning for us, but are there other questions that might be even more relevant to ask today? Here, for example, is a question that we would add to the discussion:
On this night we look into the past to tell a story about the history of the Jewish people. What do you take from this story as you write your part of the future of the Jewish people?
When we open the door for Elijah, I like to tell this story that was once told to me:
"A pious and wealthy Jew asked his rabbi, “For about forty years I have opened the door for Elijah every Seder night waiting for him to come, but he never does. What is the reason?” The rabbi answered, “In your neighborhood there lives a very poor family with many children. Call on the man and propose to him that you and your family celebrate the next Passover in his house, and for this purpose provide him and his whole family with everything necessary for the eight Passover days. Then on the Seder night Elijah will certainly come.” The man did as the rabbi told him, but after Passover he came to the rabbi and claimed that again he had waited in vain to see Elijah. The rabbi answered, “I know very well that Elijah came on the Seder night to the house of your poor neighbor. But of course you could not see him.” And the rabbi held a mirror before the face of the man and said, “Look, this was Elijah’s face that night.”"
It conjures a number of questions that are important to the ways in which we make Passover meaningful for today:
1) How does the value of taking care of our community evolve or remain the same over time?
2) Why do we tell and retell the story of our own people's suffering and liberation, and what can we learn from it?
3) Who are we responsible for, if not only ourselves?