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Beit Hamidrash

Preparation for ´Lel Haseder´

By: הרב שי פירון

In three days we'll be sitting around the Seder table. This is a family event and spiritual one altogether: an annual gathering of all the family, around a set table and Haga'adot held by all. Together, we reach a historic journey down to the roots of our national existence: "at the beginning idolaters were our ancestors", a description of ongoing events in Egypt:" We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt". From Egyptian redemption, to future redemption, "next year in Jerusalem".

But, nevertheless, it seems that the center of our seder is our little children (and older at that) preparing for one main significant section. They stand on a chair and burst in a loud voice: "What is this night different from all other nights." I confess. Although some of my children were already on the chair before perparing and asking, "What has changed", I'm still excited! Every year when one of my children asks, so innocently, "Why is this night different from all nights", a stray tear protruding corner of my eye. What's so exciting? After all, many songs children know by heart what makes this song is special, that it occupies a central place in our Seder experience.

Shabbat we read Parashat "Tzav". This is the second Parasha on Leviticus, the Book of the Korbanot. During practice of the Korbanot, appears imperative: "steady fire burns on the altar, not out" (Leviticus, Chapter VI, Verse VI). Maimonides Book of Commandments has appointed our verse as a Torah commandment, "she commanded us to light a fire on the altar every day, forever, and he said the willing" steady fire burns on the altar ", and it's impossible except for what he was commanded to continue to put in trees in the morning and at dusk .. And it says even though the fire is down from heaven it's commanded to bring from the layman "(Book of Commandments, command 29).

Maimonides emphasizes the mitzvah is to light a fire every day. Renew the burn. The combustion is made by man, and it is this that creates a deep connection between man and his God. The preliminaries: effort and re-burn, are conditions for going to serve in the Temple.
All seminal events have two conditions: preparation and guidance. The preparation regards the operations of "before": expectation, polish and repair. Guidance, concerns the meaning of the event, internalization, penetrating its inner contents.
On this basis, the preparation for passover is highlighted: cleaning, the big preparations, shopping, gifts as well as preparing the plan for Passover. On Shabbat Hagadol (Shabbat before Pesach) there's a Minhag to read part of the Haggadah, and I think the reason is simple: to get ready for the holiday also from a moral stand: to review the Haggadah, prepare the contents of the seder.

On the other hand, we must deepen the intention, the meaning of the night. How do we do it? We have two ways.
The first way is to deepen the personal and family experience, "a steady fire burns on the altar", a personal belonging of each member to the event, highlighting the relevance of the Passover Seder. Every family has its family's "Exodus". "In every generation one must see himself as if he himself had just stepped out of Egypt" (Rambam). A connection between personal, familial and national is combustion in letting the fire keep going, in making the Seder an "eternal flame" experience.

How to preserve the fire? Is it only through the connection of the national event personal and family event? Seems to me that there's a more thorough way to teach the children to ask questions! Educate curiosity, contemplation. As food has a special taste when it comes after moments of hunger, the historical facts, learning, the story of Exodus, has a deeper meaning when they come after we've raised our children to ask questions.

Judaism actually see the dilemma, raising queries, curiously, looking at "Ma Neeshtana", as the pinnacle of the great family night of the year. "Steady fire burns on the altar of" the eternal flame of commitment to Jewish identity depends largely on the ability to raise questions and doubts, clearly piercing.
Seder night is based on the children's questions, all of them. Also questions of the "evil", the "naïve", and  the one "who does not know how to ask". What won't be asked in the house will be asked at the street, where the answers will be more shallow, superficial. Home is where all the questions raised should be raised.
Therefore, every year, I am excited when my children ask: " Ma Neeshtana ". I hope I gave them the feeling, that there's nothing  like to ask questions, I hope I taught them how to look on life, not take everything as it is, to examine the world and see what has changed. Paradoxically, their questions, promise a deep Jewish existence for many years.