Each year, the celebration of Passover takes on a new meaning, not because Passover changes but because we do. Many things change: The number of people at our seder grows or it shrinks, the ages of those who attend is different from those who did in years past, the level of knowledge and sophistication of many around the table is different, our own preparation increases, we may use a different Haggadah or suddenly find that a phrase leads us to rethinking something which connects to current events or a child asks a question which suddenly stumps us.
A personal experience gives an element of the ancient celebration new meaning. A memory reconnects us in unexpected ways. Or we simply enjoy being together again as a family, with friends, after months of physical disconnect.
Suddenly we have questions that need to be addressed that we thought had been answered long ago: Why is Moses’ name not in the Haggadah even though he plays such a central role in our history? Why are numbers such as 3, 4, 10, 12, 40 so significant in the celebration and, in fact, in the Torah? What might our history have been like had women not played so significant a role, especially at this critical juncture? Why is food so important to us in this celebration as well as in many others? Is it true that in every generation there are those who rise up to destroy our people and why is that? What has been the key to our survival as a people and will it sustain us in the future? How different are we from our ancestors in terms of knowledge, commitment, and connection to the Jewish People?
Pesach requires a lot of preparation as well as a lot of critical thinking about the past, the future and our connection to both. The 4 questions are a start, but they are far from all that needs to be discussed. They help us begin but they must not be the end of our discussion. True celebration goes far beyond what we eat. It must encompass what we think and then what we do.
May our sedarim guide us by giving us the opportunity to share, reflect on and enjoy our past as a people and our future as Jews.
Jeffrey A. Wohlberg is the retired Senior Rabbi of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., and a past president of The Rabbinical Assembly.