THE PASSOVER QUESTIONS YOU NEVER THOUGHT TO ASK
By: Leon Sakkal
Yes, it’s that time of year again! As we clean out the cabinets, sweep the floors, and make all the necessary preparations for the Holiday of Pesach, how important it is to remind ourselves of the many meanings and values enveloped in this special time.
“Let My People Go!”
When finally agreeing to let the Jewish people leave the unrelenting circumstances of Missrayim, Pharaoh instructs Moshe, “Go and serve Hashem, your Gd – but first, Mi Vami Ha’holchim?” – “Just who will be leaving?” To which Moshe replies, “Bi’narenu u’bizkenenu nelech”, “With our young and our old we will go.” The question arises: In his reply, why is it that Moshe chooses to mention the young before the old? It is no secret that we, as Jewish people, always give precedence to our elders. Why, then, the uncharacteristic choice of phrasing?
The answer, as you will find, is one of the essential principles of Passover and Jewish tradition over-all.
Pharaoh indeed agrees to let the Jewish People go, but before giving Moshe the absolute ‘green light’, he needs to know precisely who will be going. Men? Women? Children? For he fears Moshe will take his most preferred category of Jewish people: The children.
Well aware that Pharaoh fears the emancipation of the young, Moshe first stresses “bi’narenu” as if to say, “Indeed, we will be taking our young.” It is then that Pharaoh withdraws his sanction.
The Evil Strategy
Although this may shed light on Moshe’s choice of words, one can’t help but wonder: What exactly is so significant about the Jewish children that Pharaoh will not let them go?
We find a similar interest taken by King Ahashverosh in the story of Purim. There, the King throws a tremendous party, inviting everybody “Mi’gadol Ve’ad Kattan” both great and small, young and old. But is it not strange? Surely most people would choose not to have children running around a party of such magnificence and grandeur! And so again we wonder: Why the invested interest in the little ones?
On the night of Pesach, we can truly understand the intention of Pharaoh, Ahashverosh, Adolf Hitler, and all of the wicked men who have tried so desperately to annihilate us.
Throughout history, our enemies have realized that the key to both the construction and destruction of the Jewish people is largely dependent onone major entity: their youth. “If we get the kids,” they muse, “the rest is history.”
The frightening truth is that this tactic has not disappeared with passage of time. Modern-day villains likewise prey on the innocence of the young. In fact, a recent study proves more than 75% of ISIS and Al Qaeda members recruited from the United States are teens!
Both past and present tyrants understand that Jewish children are the lifeline of the Jewish faith; the future of our Holy Torah and traditions. To deprive them of their ancestral rites would undoubtedly wreak havoc on the future of Am Yisrael.
Perhaps it is more apropos to transmit our story on the Holiday of Succot, when we leave the comfort of our own home to reside in huts. Surely that is deserving of a “Mah Nishtana?” Yet it is only on Pesach that we entice our children to ask questions, and teach them the story of our redemption. We are commanded “Ve’higadeta Le’bincha”, to ‘tell’ our children. On the surface, the instruction seems fair and reasonable: Give the kids a nice lesson in Jewish history. This, of course, is incorrect.
With the recital of the Haggadah we achieve far more than a mere history lesson. We ensure that those who seek our destruction don’t have their way by infecting the pure minds of our youth. This is why we tell the age-old story of our exile and redemption from Egypt exclusively on Passover.
Transmitting our Story
Understanding the wicked intention of Pharaoh, can inspire us to have a more meaningful Seder. Knowing that our own children are the target of all who seek our demise, we should do our best to transmit our heritage with pride. This Seder night, enlighten your children regarding the gratitude they should feel – not only for being part of the Jewish nation, but for belonging to such a unified community. They are so fortunate to have such an extended family.