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Blog - Torah Insights

Four Ideas For Your Seder

Why ask Why?

We send our kids to School to learn the “how’s” of life: how to read, how to write, how to make friends, how to get into Yale, how to be successful. Unfortunately, we also un-teach them how to ask why. Anyone who ever spent anytime with young children knows that all they want to know is why: Why is the sky blue? Why does the elephant have a funny nose? Why don't I have wings. So we send them to school and hope that for the money we pay for tuition the kids will leave us alone, we hope that they stop asking why and start learning how.   

That’s why the four questions of the passover Seder - “why is this night different than all other nights - is so important. It teaches us and our children to spend some time on the most important questions of life that are questions of why: Why am I here? Why should I be successful? Why should I be a good person.

Bitter Herbs

One of the herbs that me be used for the at the Seder for the “bitter herbs” is lettuce. For although lettuce is not bitter, it’s root is bitter, and we can therefore use the lettuce leaf. Therein lies a powerful message: bitterness is good only if it propels you to improve and escape the bad situation. Bitterness is only acceptable if the bitter root leads to a tasty leaf.

The Flowers

The Passover Haggadah describes the question of the wise son as follows:

What does the wise one say?

“What are the testimonies, the statutes, and the laws that G‑d, our G‑d, has commanded to you?”

You should instruct him in all the laws of Passover: “After the Passover offering, one should not then conclude the meal with dessert which would wash away the taste of the Passover offering.”

If the wise son is so wise then why is he asking about the laws and statutes? Doesn't he need to know the law to be considered a wise son?

The wise son is really asking: 

The wise son is really asking: "is there one law in the Torah that captures the essence of our relationship with G-d? One that caused G-d to shatter the laws of nature when He saved us from Egypt? The wise son knows the law, he wants to figure out the hierarchy of the law, he wants to know which one captures the essense of our bond with G-d. 

And we tell him that what G-d really loves is not so much the law that he commands us to do rather it’s the additions that the Jewish people add to Judaism. Case in point: G-d commands us to eat the passover offering, yet we go a step further, we instituted that one should not eat any food after eating the passover offering so that the taste of the passover offering will remain in one’s mouth. This extra detail is a greater expression of love then the actual performing of the Mitzvah, which is a Biblical obligation. It has the magical power to express love. just as paying the mortage for your spouse does not express as much love as buying her flowers.   

The Four Cups of Wine

At the Seder we drink four cups of wine to commemorate the four expressions of redemptions that G-d promised the Jews: "I will take you out from the suffering of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their bondage; I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Myself as a nation, and I will be to you a G-d...".

A closer reading of these four expressions will show that there are only three expressions of redemption, while the fourth - “I will take you to Myself as a nation” - refers not to the exodus from Egypt but to the Jewish people becoming G-d’s nation at mount Sinai weeks after the exodus. The reason that the fourth expression is included as an expression of redemption is because for the Jew freedom from bondage is not enough. To be free the Jew must achieve spiritual freedom, and for that we need to go to Sinai.

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