Why is this night different than all other nights! (From the 4 Questions in the Pesach Haggadah)
Why are questions such a critical ingredient of the Pesach Seder? Questions create vessels that demand filling. The extent of the depth of the question determines how much wisdom will be accessed. An unnamed philosopher once said, “There is nothing more irrelevant than the answer to a question that was never asked!” Without questions knowledge is reduced to mere information and it finds no resting place. The most compelling bytes of info are rendered useless without a question. Light is the answer to what question? Love is the answer to what question? G-d is the answer to what question? Life is riddled with questions! Quality questions can magnetize and organize treasures houses of knowledge.
Pesach night is such a critical time to become connected, to forge another link between our history and our destiny that it is best not left to amateur pedagogy. We need for children to ask questions because that opens to the heart to receive.
Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
In this spirit it was hard for me to ignore the sincere question of a third grader in class today. His hand was waving intensely in the back of the room as if there was an emerging emergency. So I called on him and he asked, “Why do we need a Pesach Seder anyway!” It was stunningly honest and refreshingly real. My mind shifted into hyper speed. How could I explain it to 9 year olds? How could I explain it to myself? With help from Heaven I managed to zero in on an idea that might prove helpful.
There is a phrase I have plastered on the Yeshiva walls. It shows a picture of Matzah, an expired credit card, and the Western Wall. The words read, “Because there is no expiration date on gratitude!” After explaining the concept of an expiration date and how it relates to credit cards and milk I told with loads of drama the following phantasmal tale.
Imagine you are looking out the open window of a very tall building and somebody walking by clumsily bumps you and suddenly you find yourself hanging by your finger tips to a ledge with your feet dangling over the busy sidewalk 30 floors below.
Your fingers are beginning to give way and you are about to surrender your life. Suddenly, a giant and powerful hand grabs your arm firmly and pulls you back into the building. The hero is then identified as Big Mo and you thank him profusely.
Now the question is, “How long do you need to thank him?” Next year you send him for Purim M’shloach Manos. Very nice! What about the next year and the year after that!? The kids were feeling the answer now but I wasn’t done. So you invite him as a special guest to your Bar Mitzvah and tell all the guests this is the one who saved back then.
At your wedding you introduce him to your bride and gratefully acknowledge that he is the one, without whom, you would not be here today. Now you have a child and he has a Bar Mitzvah and Big Mo is still a VIP guest showered with the honor he deserves. Now when your child has a child and he has a Bar Mitzvah, is Big Mo still on the short list of invitees? Of course! The value of his having saved you not only does not expire or diminish with time but it actually increases.
Why after 3329 years do we still invest all the effort required to make a Seder, munch exuberantly on Matzos, and ask questions? So what do you think? Is there an expiration date on gratitude?”