Apr06

Shabbat to Shabbat: A Time to Ask Questions

Author // Beth Schafer Categories // D'var Torah

Passover: A time to ask questions and tell stories

Passover is our holiday of liberation and a time to ask questions, four to be exact. Why do we ask questions? To elicit answers, to tell stories. We explain the seder and retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt so that another generation will feel the importance of becoming a free people. At my seder table when the kids were little and even now, we had a tradition. To give the kids incentive to ask questions beyond the prescribed four, and to keep the storytelling as a central theme of our seder, we rewarded every question with a marshmallow. My marshmallow hurling skills got decent over the years and it was not uncommon to see marshmallows flying across the table to the engaged kids who asked us for information and begged us to tell stories of Passovers of old. 

We also talk of four types of children at the seder: the wise, the wicked, the simple and the one who does not know what to ask. I heard an interpretation of these children, not as children who sit side-by-side at the table, but rather, as representing generations of modern Jews. The Wise generation lived pre-Holocaust and enjoyed a fruitful, knowledgeable Jewish life. The Wicked generation was the post-Holocaust generation who turned away from Judaism because it was associated with persecution and death. The generation that succeeded the wicked generation was Simple because their parents had distanced themselves from tradition and could not teach their children the particulars of being Jewish. Finally, the next generation became so removed from the Jewish story that they didn’t even know what questions to ask anymore.

This Pesach as we gather around for our seders, I encourage you to tell stories: in addition to the story of Passover itself, tell stories of your Jewish life, your family traditions, the people who are no longer with you who have since passed, stories of personal liberation and of gratitude. Don’t let this generation or the next become removed from our rich heritage. Whether or not you are rewarded with a marshmallow, your seder will be that much sweeter having made the experience relevant and engaging to those gathered at your table.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a Zissen Pesach,

Beth

 

About the Author

Beth Schafer

Beth Schafer joined Temple Sinai July 1, 2015 as our Bunzl Family Cantorial Chair. She has been a musical presence for the Union of Reform Judaism since 1999, headlining and playing guitar for Shabbat services at the last seven biennial conventions. At the 2013 URJ Biennial, Beth became the first woman to produce an event for the URJ. Her seven CDs of original Jewish music have become favorites in synagogues as well as churches and spiritual radio stations of many denominations.

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