Chain of Tradition

Br Rabbi Steven Bayar

Traditionally, the youngest person sitting at the Seder table tonight will begin asking the four questions. Our tradition (in the Mishna) assigned this task to the youngest almost two thousand years ago. Concerning the observance of Passover in the Torah (a thousand years before that) parents are instructed what to answer their children when they ask about the Exodus.

The four questions are such a central part of the Seder that we seldom step back and marvel at the dynamic created by the tradition. How often are we frustrated and stymied by our children’s insatiable curiosity? How often do parents hush their children when they insist on interrupting adult conversations with seemingly mundane questions?

Yet, the Seder itself celebrates a child’s wonder at the world around them and encourages them to ask questions; first by posing what questions to ask and then by making the rituals of the table symbolic and somewhat contradictory (how can Matza be a symbol of slavery when it was eaten first after they were freed?).

There is an important lesson for all of us to learn — children must be taught and we must give them permission to be children and question everything they see. How else can the chain of tradition remain vital and strong?