Nissan: The Gift of Curiosity

Nissan: The Gift of Curiosity

Mara Bernstein

In my family, Pesach is full of familiar traditions. The tables are covered with the same flowered tablecloths. The red soup pot that has been tucked away for 357 days makes its yearly debut on center stove. Soon the Seder table will be set, the guests will be welcomed, the wine will be poured, and someone will inevitably spill it, as always. Pesach is my favorite Jewish holiday. But somewhere along the way, I realized that the familiar practices have become like a habit. I know how the evening will unfold. I know what to expect from every aspect of the Seder and its rituals.

On the Seder night, as we enter the Maggid, the great retelling, the central question is posed: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Is it really different, or have we been here before? How can we find new meaning in these ancient traditions?

Perhaps we can gain inspiration from the haggadah itself. We are drawn into the narrative by four children, each with their own attributes, who pose questions about the Pesach rituals. We can probably identify at one time or another with one or all of these characters. Whether coming to the Seder from a place of engagement, like the “wise” child; distance, like the “wicked” child; unfamiliarity, like the “simple” child; or, like the fourth child, unsure where to even begin to ask, we see that there is always the aspect of the unknown and the uncertain.

This Shmita year, we encounter a new facet of Biblical customs. For those of us who are not farmers commanded to rest the land, we may feel like the “wicked” child: What does this ritual mean to YOU? If we allow ourselves to explore, we may discover ways to relate the practice to our own experience. How does freeing the land from its labors connect to the liberation of our people? What responsibilities come with our freedom? Our questions can enrich our practices of ancient traditions, as well as our relationships to them.

We can bring this openness to our everyday lives outside the Seder. If we bring the mindset of curiosity to every situation, imagine what we will learn about our traditions, those around us, and ourselves. This year, as we gather together to celebrate, I will challenge myself to embody those inquisitive children.

Why is this night different from all other nights?
I can’t wait to find out.