Mah Nishtana

Why is this Pesach different from all other Pesachim?

It is the only true paradox that I have ever encountered, but in Judaism the more different things become, the more they stay the same. 

On a personal level this Pesach is different for my family as it is the first since my family diminished from four to three generations.  The eldest relatives are no longer present at the table to guide our discussion and understanding of Jewish identity.  My generation has moved one step closer towards the one that delivers the wise counsel and shares those lingering memories of the past.

For the Jewish people, this Pesach is different, but we sometimes struggle to move beyond the familiarity of the text of the Haggadah and the taste of the matza to understand the passage of time.  We need to realise we are caught within the midst of an epoch of change which is of momentous and historical proportions. 

The Pesach itself was a Korban.   This Pesach is different if for no other reason that it is one Pesach closer to the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash and the rededication of Jerusalem as the spiritual centre of world. 

 

On all other nights we eat Bread or Matza. Tonight we only eat Matzah.

Chametz, the inflated loaf of bread, is a metaphor for the ego.  

There are so many wonderful reasons to be Jewish, to build a nation state that is a light to the nations, to send forth a universal message of monotheistic harmony.  At the same time there are so many Jews who fail to heed the call of the Torah and the law of passage from Moshe Rabbenu.  There are Jews who take their liberty and freedom for granted, who do not care for extending an effort towards advancing their mesorah. 

We need to harness our egotistical drive of self-gratification and exercise a little humility.  We were created with meaning and purpose, and must strive to live up to our potential.  To achieve this we must master the symbolism of the matzah.

 

On all other nights we eat all types of herb.  Tonight they are bitter only.

The more we conquer the forces of nature, the more nature has a way of fighting back.  This year for many people in places like Christchurch, New Zealand, Japan, rural Queensland, and many other places the world over, Seder night will never be the same again. 

We are susceptible to natural forces.  There are certain environmental conditions that we control, and others that we cannot.  It is how we react and respond to those matters that are beyond our span of control that define our character as a person – the essence of who we are. 

I don’t support a carbon tax, but I do support carbon tzedakah.  Those who have had their whole lives destroyed by disaster and misfortune need our help.  Like us, they too sit at the Seder table and contemplate what the future may bring.

 

On all other nights we dip once, tonight we dip twice.

Seder is a night of mixed emotions.  From the traits of slaves to the traits of kings, we embrace the customs of royalty. 

The nation of Israel is a world leader of industry and development.  Be it health, agriculture, Information Technology, sustainable energy, science, or any number of industries, Israeli ingenuity is often at the forefront.  Israel applies its knowledge and innovation for the development of a better world.  For this we are immensely proud.   

 

On all other nights we sit up, tonight we recline.

Reclining at the Seder table is also a roleplay of royalty.

Royalty is not what it once was.  Royalty in the modern context is a dynasty of figureheads, not a chamber of political power.  It has status, but in the western world the monarchy is nothing more than an historical hangover.  In the subjugated world, the kingdoms of political rulers are at their most vulnerable as population’s rebel and regimes fall. 

Judaism is what it has always been.  It is inspiring, enduring, and empowering for the individual.  Judaism is different.  In the words of Abraham Joshua Herschel, Judaism is a religion given by God to define man, while the other faiths were created by man to define God.  Even the concept of a monarchy for a national Jewish commonwealth differs in construct to anything that can be found in the world today. 

Each year there are more new people to sit around the Seder table.  Everyone of those people ensures the growth and continuity of the Jewish nation.  Each one of those people brings forward insights, thoughts and meaning that is relative to their Jewish experience.  Our seder night is truly a royal experience. 

 

Why is this night different to all others?

If you look carefully at the syntax of the Haggadah you will not see four questions.  You will see one question followed by four statements. 

There is only one question; why is this night different? 

The answer is the story of the Jewish people.  Because we are different.  Because we were slaves in Egypt.  Because we needed to grow and develop as individuals, to understand the value of freedom, to receive our Torah and to build our nation.  Because we often mix emotions, the emotions of slavery and freedom, of the poor worker and the powerful monarch.  Our story is unique because it offers a place for everyone within it. 

The Seder night not only delivers us the gift of freedom, but the values and medium of exchange that allows us to also understand what our freedom is for, and the means by which we can correctly apply it. 

 

Gedalia will be taking a break from blogging for the next month.  He wishes all Jewgle readers a happy and kosher Pesach.