A Thousand Questions
Today was the Siyum for Masechet P'sachim as part of the Daf Yomi cycle. The cycle began last January and so far we have learned Masechet Brachot, Masechet Shabbat, Masechet Eruvin and now Masechet P'sachim. Tomorrow we will begin a new Masechet, Masechet Shekalim.
Over the past year I have reviewed things I have learned with you, but in the interest of time I won't share this today, but will leave it for another post. In the meantime, I wrote this poem to share with the other learners regarding questioning at the Seder.
It pertains to Pesachim 116 a
GEMARA: The Sages taught: If his son is wise and knows how to inquire, his son asks him. And if he is not wise, his wife asks him. And if even his wife is not capable of asking or if he has no wife, he asks himself. And even if two Torah scholars who know the halakhot of Passover are sitting together and there is no one else present to pose the questions, they ask each other.
מָה נִשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכׇּל הַלֵּילוֹת, שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין פַּעַם אֶחָת, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה — שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים. מַתְקֵיף לַהּ רָבָא: אַטּוּ כׇּל יוֹמָא לָא סַגִּיא דְּלָא מְטַבְּלָא חֲדָא זִימְנָא? אֶלָּא אָמַר רָבָא, הָכִי קָתָנֵי: שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ חַיָּיבִין לְטַבֵּל אֲפִילּוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה — שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים. The mishna states that one of the questions is: Why is this night different from all other nights? As on all other nights we dip once; however, on this night we dip twice. Rava strongly objects to this statement of the mishna: Is that to say that on every other day there is no alternative but to dip once? Is there an obligation to dip at all on other days, as indicated by the wording of the mishna? Rather, Rava said that this is what the mishna is teaching: As on all other nights we are not obligated to dip even once; however, on this night we are obligated to dip twice.
This is my opportunity to add to my teacher's thoughts about asking questions at the seders.
A Night of a Thousand Questions
Upon this question we build
a bridge between generations
a tower built of ideas
a path to understanding our history
a map leading to hope
all with the sweet taste of freedom in our mouths
You are young
You are old
and every age in between
You know much
or you know little
But you are not weary
Your senses are sharp
You are not a slave
You are not beaten down
You sit, you recline at this table of freedom
It is your right,
You have a voice!
You have the freedom to question
You have the right to wonder
To contemplate, to ponder
To opine, to exchange ideas
You sit at a table in the presence of giants
Your questions enter you into the discussion
that has lasted thousands of years
This is a table of four cups
a hundred plus generations
and a thousand questions
answered and unanswered
You are each of the four children
You are the rabbis seated in B'nei Barak
In your soul you were freed from Egypt
It is still your debate
It is still your story
It is still your voice swimming in a sea of voices
Ask and ask again
Through questions we define ourselves
Questions open the gates of wisdom
So, argue, exchange ideas
Your eyes are wide open
Questions burn like Maror on your tongue
Questions that glow as burning coals
Open your mind
You are not passive
You are not shy
You do not ask others to think for you
You have the freedom to think
It is a gift
So you ask
So you delve
Nothing remains static
Through questions the story becomes your own
For two nights a year you are royalty
you revel not in a story of riches
but of miracles, of freedom
of the hopeless given hope
A seder plate graces the table
Symbols surround you
It is your questions that bind the symbols
that brings the past to the here and now.
You are the story and the story is you
So ask and ask again.
Mah Nishtana Halayla Hazeh?
It is a Night of a Thousand Questions.