Why is this night different than all other nights? – Question in the Haggadah at the Pesach Seder
What are these testimonies and statutes (Chukim), and judgments that HASHEM our G-d has commanded you? – Question of the wise son
Why are questions central to the Pesach Seder and Torah learning in general? Questions create vessels. How so!?
Imagine pouring the most delicious and expensive wine in the world onto the table. What a mess! What a waste! If only there would have been a cup there to receive the wine then it could have been happily imbibed. When someone asks a question, it creates a vessel of receptivity in the mind.
One anonymous philosopher once quipped, “There is nothing more irrelevant than the answer to a question that was never asked.” Therefore, questions are the answer.
The most valuable information in the world is lost on the uncurious mind. The key to open up the mind to ready it for what the Pesach Seder has to offer is a question. Depending upon the depth and sincerity of the question so will be the relevance of the answer to the one who asks. Everything is hinging on curiosity.
I saw a quote like this recently; “Curiosity is the cure for boredom. There is no cure for curiosity!” So it is crucial to spark curiosity at the Pesach Seder and be ready for a relevant discussion.
The Sefas Emes wonders why the wise son is asking about the Chukim – statutes. Chukim, by definition, are not to be understood. The answer he gets is that we are not to eat after the Afikomin. The last and the lasting taste of the night is Matzah. It’s no mistake and our sages noticed it that the same letters for Matzos spell Mitzvos. “Guard the Matzos… Don’t read Matzos but rather Mitzvos!” Matzos are not only a Mitzvah. They are an example of all Mitzvos.
The Sefas Emes explains that although Matzos are plain and bland, not the most attractive food on the plant, but once consumed as a Mitzvah one can easily acquire a taste and even an appetite for them.
There’s a Naase v Nishma effect here. First, we do it and then we understand it. It starts out as a Chok and ends up with a Taam- a taste. Whereas the alluring stuff of this world, of which there is plenty, seem to start off with a Taam, loads of flavor, and they end up as a Chok. We become stuck, addicted, unable to stop even when there is no good reason to continue. The goal of Pesach is to liberate ourselves from these habits and to develop an appetite for Mitzvos! That’s what a good question delivers!
I was driving my youngest son back to Yeshiva erev Shabbos a few weeks ago. I played a song for him that I like very much. I wanted him to hear what non-computer-generated music sounds like with congruent words from the heart that express rather than impress. He listened attentively and then told me he has a song he wants to play for me. I said, “Ok!” skeptically, but then he told me that his Rebbe who is a HUGE Talmud Chochom has this song on his phone.
My ears perked up as he started playing the song. I couldn’t quite make out the lyrics or the tune but I listened patiently and then it hit me. In the chorus, which trumpeted loud and clear there was a question that was asked that stunned me. I started to cry. It shook me to my core. I haven’t heard a question so profound and relevant in a long time. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was taken totally by surprise.
It became a constant refrain for me and I find myself repeating it to myself and out loud over and over again. I hope to introduce it as a center piece to our Pesach Seder this year and every year.
The words go like this, “Avraham, are we the children that you dreamed of? Are we that shining star you saw at night?” Wow! What a powerful way to reflect on ourselves especially at this time of history. Looking at myself in the mirror or thinking about it at a random moment in the day, “Avraham, am I what -who you had in mind, 3700 years ago?” Maybe the answer is yes or maybe I can do a little or more than a little better. What a question!? What a vessel!? It only waits to be filled with valuable and delicious answers.