A major theme of the Passover Seder experience is to engage people where they are at. My in-laws have crafted this art over the years. First of all, they lead one seder that is geared towards kids – the “Frog Seder” – and one that is for adults. The Frog Seder was very special for us this year since it was our daughter’s first one. My father-in-law, Malcolm Katz, began to lead this kind of seder when our nieces, Danielle and Samantha, were young children – now they are in their twenties. How special to see the older “kids” maintain the fun-loving atmosphere for the younger ones. This made me very conscious of how our family’s own story and traditions were being transmitted.
The second night seder is iconic. My mother-in-law, Sally Weber, begins preparing for this seder months in advance by inviting guests and assigning appropriate questions for the individual and for the overall experience she is seeking to shape. Questions that engage emerged as the main theme for me from the Seder itself. She asked me and Marc Horowitz the same question: Why do you think we invite the youngest to recite the four questions? Is there someone else to recite them who would be better? What kinds of questions would they ask? While I defended the tradition in the name of inclusion, Marc suggested that we should be inspired by those who ask the most piercing deepest questions. They should be the ones to recite the Four Questions. As part of his suggestion, he actually doctored a recording of Stephen Hawking singing the Mah Nishtana.
This made me think about the educational question of what kind of questions we are raising the next generation of Jews to ask; or, what kinds of questions will engage the next generation of Jews?
Of course the paradigm of the Four Children engage us in these very questions every year. It was another year that the Sedarim served their function: immersing myself in family and wrestling with the big questions of life. This reminds me of the wise saying by one of our rabbis, Ben Bag Bag: “Turn it and turn it for it is all contained in it.” (Pirkei Avot 5:22) I am grateful to those who have come before me, first and foremost my parents, who continue to teach me how to ask the Big Questions of life.