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    Who asks the questions?

    When we were very young we showed how grown up we were when we first asked the four questions on Seder night. Mah Nishtanah, we piped up, and proud and adoring elders beamed with delight.

    Later we probably moved through a stage of rebelliousness and maybe didn’t even come to Seder at all. Perhaps we knew, perhaps we didn’t, but that hurt our parents unbelievably. They had imagined us to be the wise son, and lo and behold, we had turned into the Rasha, or even worse, the son who stayed away.

    Then we settled down and were back at Seder, and before long we ourselves were grown up and starting a family, and the cycle began again. Jewish life would not be the same without Seder and the four questions. The age-old dialogue with Judaism takes many forms, and our attitude to the Haggadah is the litmus test of how it is going.

    Not that it is enough to ask about unleavened bread and bitter herbs. There are other and deeper questions that should be asked by the Jew who thinks. Questions about God and man, life and death, good and evil, relationships and temptations, spirituality and secularism, authority and autonomy.

    The worst thing a parent can do is to give the dismissive response and say, M’darf nicht fregen… – “You shouldn’t ask”.

    The Midrash says that when a person asks the simple son’s question, Mah zot? ­- “What is this Judaism?” it is both a good and a bad sign.

    It is bad because it shows there is ignorance; it is good because it shows there is interest. The interest has to be encouraged. Few parents have enough theological training to handle the questions personally, but they should try to acquire it. Long before your child ­ of whatever age ­ starts asking you about ideas and attitudes, you should be asking the deeper questions yourself.

    You will not necessarily find easy answers, but you will be able to move off the sidelines and become a player in the dramatic dialogue that keeps the Jewish future on track.

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