Passover: Insights for the Seder

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah                                                               for her neshama.
by Samantha Hulkower

The Ibscha Relief from the tomb of Khnumhotep II,
showing Semitic traders (possibly the Hyksos) coming to Egypt some 4,000 years ago.
            NebMaatRa, Wikimedia Commons
This Friday night, the holiday of Passover begins. While the annual tradition of the Seder is always fun, after doing the same thing year, after year, after year the four questions can start getting as stale as last year's matza. We might be left wondering, after reading the same story for so long, what can we really get out of the Seder this year?
The fact is, how much we get out of the Seder depends on how we approach it, which leads directly to the four sons - four possible attitudes. Perhaps we can even find within ourselves elements of each of the four. At times wise, curious, fascinated and probing; at times cynical. Sometimes we are just simple, and sometimes we don't know how to ask; we have lost the curiosity,we are no longer interested. Here are a few insights into the Seder that should satisfy your curiosity, no matter which of the four sons you identify with:
What does 'Seder' even mean?
There is no meaningless ritual in Judaism. The more we make an effort to examine the reasons behind the actions we do on Seder night, the more we will be able to appreciate the richness and meaning behind each step. The word 'Seder' means 'order.' The traditional sequence of 15 incremental stages is specifically designed to catalyze our critical thinking and to prompt important questions of Jewish identity, and what freedom means to us. Jewish tradition teaches us that our attitudes are shaped by our actions. As a result we engage in what could be described as a series of behavioral stimuli that comprise the traditional Seder service. The multifaceted experience of eating, drinking, dipping, reading, discussing, questioning, leaning and singing of Seder night presents us with an interactive educational framework within which we can begin to take a fresh look at our own personal freedom.

What does matza have to do with slavery and freedom?
True freedom comes from a genuine openness to learn and discover. If we can just shethat cynical or 'know it all' blockage, we can gain so much that night.We'll have already attained one giant leap away from slavery, towards freedom. Matzah is literally free of all additives, externalities and superficial good looks - it is bread without the hot air. It represents the bare essentials. Everything we pursue in life can be divided into necessities and luxuries. To the extent that a luxury becomes a necessity we lose an element of our freedom by being enslaved to a false need. Jewish thought teaches that we should not submit to peer pressure, viewing ourselves as competing with others. It is far better to focus on our 'personal bests' rather than 'world records'; life is an arena in which we do not need others to lose in order for us to win. On Passover we can focus on the essence and leave the externalities behind. It is a time to get rid of the ego that powers our self importance and holds us back through distracting us from our true goals.

Happy Passover!
Content from Aish.

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