Haggadah-Ideas I Remember
My father, Rabbi Weinberg, asked me if I remembered any of the ideas I heard at the Seder table as a young boy. Here they are: What does seder mean? Order. This makes no sense; there is no order to the hagada!
What’s the main mitzvah of the night? Tell the story, but we never tell a full story of the Exodus!
We lift up the matzah, what should we be talking about now? Matzah. Do we talk about matzah? No, we wait till the end of the seder.
Then we tell the kids to ask four questions, do we answer any of the four questions? No we don’t. our kids have heard the answers in school, they know more answers to these questions than we do, they’ve asked the question every single year and they never get an answer, but yet they keep coming back with the same questions. Does it make sense?
What does the word ma mean in Hebrew? What, not , Why.
How many questions are there? Either there are five, or there’s one with five examples. The child never says “why do eat matzah?”, “why do we eat maror?”, “why do we dip?”, “why do we lean?”. They never ask it, that’s why we never answer.
The first time that we dip, why do we dip? The origin of it is, for no reason at all. We do it so that the children will ask. Well that’s very intelligent, I’ll teach my children to ask stupid questions, ones they’ve gotten answers to or haven’t gotten answers to in previous years, and then when they ask the question I say “the whole purpose of this is so you would ask a question which has no answer”.
So finally we answer the question, “we were slaves and then God took us out”. That’s all we say, because the next paragraph is a story about one time you had five rabbis and they were telling the story all night, and their students, came in at the middle of the night and said “you know rabbis, its time to say shema”. What does that have to do with Pesach?
The next paragraph, rabbi elazar ben azaria says, “well I woke up one morning and I had white hair”. He’s not talking about the mitzvah to remember the exodus on Pesach night, he’s talking about the commandment to remember the exodus every night of the year. But what does that have to do with the sedar?
And then we say, “o blessed be the one who is every where, blessed is he. Blessed is the one who gave the torah. Blessed is he”. What’s missing? Blessed is the one who took us out of Egypt.
And the torah spoke about four different children. Is it fair to set up our children to ask questions and then after they ask we say, “ oh by the way do you know that the way you ask your question determines whether you’re righteous or you’re wicked, or you’re simple, or to dumb to ask”. Shouldn’t the four children be before the ma nish tama?
Now that we have the four children now at least we’ll answer the question, right? No. “maybe we should have done this two weeks ago”. We’re halfway through the haggadah, and we start discussing when we should have done the haggadah. It doesn’t make sense, and certainly doesn’t seem to be a seder,
Then we go “well originally our ancestors were idol worshipers and now god brought us close, and blessed is the one who keeps his promise. And that promise keeps us alive in every generation”. Still it has nothing to do with the exodus.
Then we say “do you know what leven the aromath wanted to do? He wanted to wipe us all out. He was worse than pharaoh”.
Where do we get these verses? We get these verses from something called “first fruits”. When we enter the land of Israel and we bring our first fruits we read five verses. So on Passover night, instead of reading the book of exodus, which talks about the story, we read something from deuterodomy that’s a story, a five verse recap of all the years of slavery in Egypt. So why don’t we just read verses from exodus and read the story itself instead of reading something that refers back to it?
Then we go into miracles of what will happen when the messiah will come, and the ten plagues, and then maybe there were more miracles at the sea perhaps fifty, perhaps two hundred or two hundred and fifty.
We kids would be so confused at this point, I don’t know whether this is a good seder (a good order). So why do we call it a seder?
Nothing says more about a person than the way a person asks a question. Look at the haggadah it says, “the wise son, what does the wise child SAY”, “the wicked son, what does he SAY”, because the question is what defines the child.
In the times of the Talmud, you would have an entrance exam to a great yeshiva. You come in will all your scrolls you studied and walk up to rabbi akiva ready for your great test, and then rabbi akiva instead of testing you on all your materials he would ask you one question; “ask me a question?”. Based on your question would determine whether you would be accepted to the school or not, and where you would be placed.
The torah lists four children, four times the torah describes a conversation between a parent and a child. Who is the first child mentioned? In the haggadah the wise, in the torah the wicked child. Do you know what the Jews did when they found out they would have wicked children? “they bowed down, and (rashi says) in joy”.
Every Jew belongs at the seder, and every Jew is as much a part of the seder, and of torah, and of Judaism, and of our relationship with god as any other Jew. So if I could point at another Jew and accuse that Jew of being a wicked Jew, too bad.
There are four children in the torah, every Jew is included in this. Exclusion is contrary to Passover. There is no Judaism without all four children being there. The wicked son is first and the Jews bow down in joy because that means that every Jew has a place in the sedar.
The actual introduction of the laws of Passover and the exodus began with the mitzvah, the sanctification of the new moon. The reason is to look at something from an entirely new perspective.
If I am locked in to preconceptions, to preconceived ideas, one way of seeing the world, of seeing god, I am not free. In fact I am no different from my idol worshipping ancestors. Therefore, “perhaps we should even start the process of the sedar on Rosh chodesh (the new moon)”.
Every Jew is included , a question defines us more than anything else, the point is the haggadah is nothing more than a training mechanism to teach us how to ask and how to think.
If we read this organized book, and we just read it straight, then god is in control and we have no role to play. But, if we read this book as a training mechanism, and if we read it in a way that we ask good questions, and we’re able to see our lives in an entirely new way, and we can look at those Jews we consider wicked and see that they have an important place in Judaism, then we become empowered by godliness.