Table for Five: Passover Edition

Finding Our Voice
April 25, 2024

One verse, five voices. Edited by Nina Litvak and Salvador Litvak, the Accidental Talmudist

And [as for] the one who does not know to ask, you open for him. As the Torah says, “You must tell your child on that day, saying, ‘For the sake of this, HaShem acted for me when I left Egypt.’”

– Passover Haggadah

Yehudit Wolffe
Founder, Bais Chana of California and KosherSofer.com

At the Seder we will be telling the son “that doesn’t know how to ask”: “For the sake of THIS Hashem acted for me when I left Egypt.” This son will ask what is “THIS”? 

What causes Hashem’s miracles? Why did G-d allow evil/suffering before miracles? Chassidus delves deeply into these questions: To see our pain; G-d hiding; a confused world; evil within the plan of creation. 

G-d’s plan is for us to see an infinite G-d in a finite world, for us to bring the world to its ultimate intention/purpose which is to understand an infinite G-d. Can limited humans see an infinite G-d? YES! The Lubavitcher Rebbe clarified: Evil, a cover of truth, only has power if we consider it powerful and valid. When we follow Hashem’s will, and act with goodness, evil has no power. It cannot frighten/overpower us. Through us persevering with good deeds during dark times, doing Hashem’s will, we overpower evil … by revealing the truth: the power of an infinite Hashem in this world! Our light expels darkness! We see Hashem performing miracles. 

How do we persevere with conviction and empowered leadership being forces of good? We have power by understanding Torah, internalizing the teachings of Hashem; His will and wisdom, especially with the inner dimensions of Chassidus we understand/become G-dl’y conscious.  We see Hashem continuously performing miracles for us! Doing goodness/kindness despite darkness, breaking veils, exposeing miracles/our purpose in creation. By thanking/acknowledging Hashem we complete G-d’s intention for us. Thank you Hashem!!!

Rabbi Chaim Singer-Frankes
Multi-Faith Chaplain, Spiritual Care Guide, Kaiser Panorama City

The Passover seder is modeled on the classical Greek symposium, inviting each of us at the table to become a philosopher. With that first glass of wine, we may exit our narrow intellectual and spiritual slaveries and let the Haggadah refract each of us in rays of personal insight. Every page illuminates a palace to be explored for innermost truths. But of them all, the “four children” invite us to the most captivating introspection. The sons enchant as arresting archetypes, and with each year we recognize different aspects of ourselves nestled within them. We fathom which son to identify with, locating one to express our particular nature. From lowliness to curiosity, discernment to radical selfishness, wisdom to tongue-tied naivete. 

Indeed, with the fourth son, the Haggadah’s authors may have concealed that most imperative quality so easily dismissed: Awe. Curious and ironic, it is the fourth child who in his mute astonishment may in fact “say” the most. Maybe it is the improbable and outlandish notion that “God was present for all of it” which leaves this child dumbfounded. Consider things which leave you agape or utterly breathless. The spectacle of our deliverance from bondage? Well sure! But isn’t it all a Divine pageant: A breathtaking sunset, a few bars by Mussorgsky, or the miracle of birth? With God as gem cutter, even pedestrian facets of daily life bedazzle and inspire us to apprehend that what we don’t know is the gateway to eternity.

Rabbi Yoni Dahlen
Congregation Shaarey Zedek, Southfield MI

The brilliance of the Passover Haggadah comes from its ability to transcend. The Haggadah isn’t just a map for navigating the Seder; it’s a map for navigating our hearts, our minds, our neshamas.

Case in point, this incredible section known as the Four Children, which encourages the seder participants to witness the diversity of human thought and emotion, but also, critically, to recognize that diversity within the complexity of the self. We are all four of the children, and also, without contradiction, none of them. We change: We take steps forward, we take steps backwards. We can be at our best, and we can be at our worst. And so as far as that paradigm of the Four Children goes, the “child who does not know how to ask” is us at our most vulnerable. It’s not an explosion of emotion like the “wicked child,” and it’s not a display of sagacity like the “wise child.” It is a humble acknowledgement of life’s complexity by embracing the awe and wonder of Creation. 

It is a moment of taking everything in: Slavery, redemption, freedom, responsibility, and getting our voice caught in our throat at the overwhelming immensity of it all. And in a way, that is the holiest response imaginable. It is pure. Not sullied by our attempts to articulate the ineffable. Not refracted to make sense of that which is beyond our understanding. It is a true moment of freedom. And on Pesach, it is freedom that we seek. 

Rabbi Elazar Bergman
Founder, hiddentzaddik.com

Maharal of Prague understands this “know” not as brain-knowledge, but connection-knowledge (as in “Adam knew Eve”). This unconnected child, perhaps adult in years, fails to ask because he is indifferent. Is his indifference antagonistic or benign? Maharal writes that we do not know. 

So, we respond to his indifference not with our own indifference, but with concern and conviction, with Show and Tell™. The Hebrew instruction “you open for him” uses the feminine pronoun with the masculine verb. Not gender dysphoria, but advice to harmonize these distinct energies. As parents, we should speak with one voice. As Jews, we ought to invite, interest and encourage one another in the richness and responsibility of our “emunah” (faith). These need to be done with genuine camaraderie and honesty. 

And if it arises, acknowledge your own apathy toward Torah and mitzvahs. Don’t turn your back on it. Take yourself in hand. Show and tell your child/self that “for the sake of my mitzvahs HasShem acts for me. He’s involved in my life. He liberated me and gave me the privilege and opportunity of being a Torah-living Jew. That’s freedom! May your Afikomen present be ever-renewing enthusiasm for faith in HasShem, His Torah and all His people — including you! 

Yehudit Garmaise
Freelance writer, Master’s Degree Student of Marriage and Family Therapy

Instead of falling into despair about our hostages, worldwide antisemitism, and escalating attacks on Israel, chas v’shalom, Rebbe R. Hershel’le of Rimonov, encourages us to try to be more like the child who does not know how to ask questions. “Believe me,” the Rebbe would say, “The children who do not know how to ask do better than all of them. The simple emunah [faith] of such children is so strong and confident that they don’t feel the need to question, nor complain.” 

“When we say ‘Shema Yisroel,’ says Reb Elimelech Biderman, “we cover our eyes because only when we aren’t looking around, speculating, wondering, nor doubting, can we truly feel, ‘Hashem Echad.’” Jews who allow the news to infuriate them, expend energy deflecting illogical and hateful arguments, and tirelessly engage on social media “will end up understanding much less than Jews who go with temimus [purity],” says Reb Biderman. 

The Haggadah urges us to remind each other and our most pure, believing selves: “Hashem acted on our behalf when we left Mitzrayim.”

We don’t know how or when, but we need to stand strong and daven. We must bolster our faith and trust in eventual victory, safety, and freedom. “The process of recovery is a rewriting of our story,” says Rabbi Joey Rosenfeld. We know how this story ends and ultimately, we will write it. 

For Am Yisroel, Pesach reminds us, Hashem will bypass His usual rules of nature to give us reasons to sing in gratitude and celebration.

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.