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Questions for Passover

by the editors of Torah from Dixie

Passover is known as the festival when it is OK to sit back and ask questions all night. The editors of Torah from Dixie have compiled a list of questions to help get the ball rolling for discussion at your seder.


uWe commonly refer to Passover as the "holiday of freedom", and that notion is supported by numerous references throughout our liturgy. Yet, only 49 days after the exodus, Hashem appeared to us on Mt. Sinai and gave us the Torah which, when properly kept, renders its observers into servants of G-d. It seems that we exchanged our servitude to Pharaoh for servitude to Hashem. How does this reality impact on our definition of true freedom?

uThe Haggadah mentions a surprising possibility: Were it not for an explicit verse commanding us to relate the story of the exodus specifically on Passover night, we would have thought that the appropriate time would have been two weeks earlier on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the first day of the month in which the exodus occurred. What is the reasoning behind that assumption, and why in fact does the Torah command that the seder be held on Passover night?

uThe central section of the Haggadah (beginning with "Tzei ulmad"), in which the majority of the exodus story is taught, is built around a brief passage taken from Parshat Ki Tavo in the book of Deuteronomy. This passage relates that at the conclusion of the harvest season in the land of Israel, the Jewish farmer was obligated to bring his bikurim (first fruits) to the Temple in Jerusalem. Just before handing his precious produce to the Kohen (priest), the farmer would recite a short declaration (four verses) outlining Jewish history, which we quote in the Haggadah and use as a springboard to convey the story of the exodus. Why, of all portions, was this one chosen to be the backdrop for the exodus story? What is the connection between the mitzvah of bikurim and the seder night?

uWhy was it necessary for the developing Jewish nation to be enslaved for so many years?

uWhy did Hashem employ the drawn out process of ten plagues in order to coerce Pharaoh to free the Jewish people? Couldn't the same results have been accomplished with one big plague instead of an extended build up of pressure?

uWhy isn't Moses mentioned in the Haggadah?

uWhy do we physically pour and place the cup for Elijah on the table if we know that he doesn't actually drink it?

uWhat does the Haggadah mean that if Hashem hadn't taken our ancestors out of Egypt we would still be enslaved to Pharaoh?

uWhat is meant when the Haggadah uses the term "dayeinu - it would have been enough for us" when describing the many wonders that Hashem performed throughout the exodus from Egypt?

uWhy does Rabbi Yehudah make an abbreviation for the ten plagues?

uWhy do we begin counting the omer from the second day of Passover rather than the first?

uWhat is the connection between Purim and Passover? Shavuot and Passover?

uOur sages teach that Abraham ate matzah on Passover hundreds of years before the exodus took place. Why?

uWhy is the paragraph of "Ha lachma - This is the bread of our "affliction" composed in Aramaic rather than in Hebrew like the rest of the Haggadah?

uWhy is the Haggadah constructed in a question and answer format? Who is supposed to ask and who is supposed to answer?

uJuxtaposed to the recounting of Jacob and the Jewish people's going down to Egypt, the Haggadah states that Esau inherited his portion of Mt. Seir. What is the Haggadah trying to point out by placing these two points together?

uHow does the freedom we speak about and celebrate on Passover differ from the freedom that, for example, Americans celebrate on the Fourth of July?

uWhy, in Jewish tradition, is the yetzer harah (evil inclination) compared to chametz (leavened food)?

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