You may be totally stressed out about Passover. And it’s understandable–it’s stressful! Hosting a dinner for 30 people would be enough–dayenu, if you will–but working with an extended program, partially in Hebrew and/or Aramaic, that needs to be the right length, the perfect level of inspirational, plus engaging and interesting? It’s enough to send you over the edge of a pyramid.
The Four Questions are a familiar cornerstone of the seder festival meal, in which the youngest present asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Those questions aren’t the end-all be-all. They are meant as a jumping-off point for discussion about why we do the things we do at the Seder–all of which is meant to trigger a sense of immediacy and personal relevance. We are all supposed to ask ourselves what we are doing, and to feel as if we are the ones who were freed from slavery–to feel, in short, that this is our story.
Anyone who has little kids, though, knows that they ask far more than four questions on a daily basis. Any time with kids is speckled with questions ranging from “Why can’t I have cookies for breakfast?” to “Does everybody die?”
Kids ask questions that are just wonderful, whether are naïve or shockingly insightful. As parents, we sometimes tune those questions out as white noise. I am inviting you here to consider them as a way to invigorate your seder.
Ask your kids for questions they have about Passover. Then sprinkle them through the Haggadah and ask your guests or other guests of the seder you are attending to answer them. When you are done, label the questions with your kid’s name and age and save them for future use–when they are adults.
As a jumping off point, these are some of the questions my boys asked me when they were 4 and 5 years old. Please feel free to answer, or to add your own to the mix.
1. “Did the plagues only happen to the bad Egyptians, or to all the Egyptians, even the Egyptian kids? Because slavery wasn’t kids’ fault.”
2. “If people stay slaves then that means they have no choices…but if they didn’t run away, doesn’t that mean they chose to stay slaves?”
3. “Are the Four Sons real people?”
4. “Why are there funny songs about the plagues even though they were really bad?”
5. “When there is an earthquake in Haiti, is that a plague?”
6. “Why did God make bad people like Pharaoh at all?”
7. “Did God harden Pharaoh’s heart with the plagues, or did Pharaoh harden his own heart?”
8. “Did God know that Pharaoh’s heart was going to be hardened? Or did he think the plagues would soften Pharaoh’s heart and so God made a mistake?
9. “When Moses got the Torah, did that mean he turned into a rabbi?”
10. “Did Moses have to teach the Torah to other people or did they know how to read?”
11. “If all who are hungry are supposed to come and eat, who is supposed to cook?”
12. “Why are there only four questions when I have so many more?”