This Week’s D’var Torah by Aliyah Lofman ’23
Ever since I was a little kid, Passover has been my favorite Jewish holiday, and the time of year that I truly look forward to the most. My family has fabricated many different traditions that make the holiday so special to me. We always have the Seders with my Orthodox family, which means they will generally last until 2 am. Especially as a young kid, sometimes these Seders can be tedious, and so in an attempt to keep me and my cousins engaged, my great uncle, or the leader of the Seder, gives anyone who asks a question about the story, chocolate chips. We are given rewards when we ask questions because to my family, asking questions is one of the most valuable aspects of Judaism. It is the responsibility of the kids to ask questions, but it is the responsibility of the leader of the Seder to answer those questions, and if none of the kids are asking any, then it is still their responsibility to start that conversation and teach us all about the story of Passover. This theme of asking questions is not something that is exclusively followed by my family, but is valued by FJA, synagogues, and essentially Judaism at large.
A traditional Haggadah speaks of four different sons: one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is simple, and one who does not know how to ask. With each son, we are told to relate the story of Passover in a different way in response to the different style question, or in the case of the 4th son, the lack thereof. Whether these answers are intricate and extensive, sarcastic and quick, or simple and straightforward, it is our obligation to answer every single question and inform every single person of the story of Exodus. When it comes to the son who does not know how to ask, however, a different approach is taken. As opposed to answering the question, like we do with all of the other sons, since no question is posed, we have to be the ones to open up the conversation. It is for this son that we even have the Passover Seder, because if just one person does not know how to ask, we need to dedicate ourselves and our time to enlighten that person so that they will become knowledgeable, despite their lack of questioning. While it is paramount to ask questions and remain inquisitive, for the circumstances where one doesn’t, it is also vital that there is someone who will open up the conversation, and spark the flame for them. On occasion, it is even crucial that we become that person who starts conversations. Pertaining to issues like the conflict in Israel and Antisemitism, people remain in fear of asking questions because these topics can be controversial. So as not to say the wrong thing, oftentimes, individuals will stay silent and be indifferent to the matter. If nobody is there to start that conversation regardless of the possible controversy, then the problems will only escalade. Hence, as Passover quickly approaches, it is crucial that we ask questions ourselves and continue being curious during this holiday, but it is just as important that we look out for the people who do not ask questions, because it is our responsibility to inform them and to educate them about the story of Passover, just as it is our responsibility to spark the conversation around topics like Israel and Antisemitism.