Ma Nishtana

Why do we do this, Tatty?
Mommy, please tell me why.
And why do we say this, Mommy?
Tatty, please tell me why.

K’dei die kinder zul’n fregen, mein kind –
so the children will ask,
we change our routine –
and we do all these things
so the children will ask.

But I’ve asked now, Mommy,
will you tell me why?
And I’ve asked now, Tatty,
will you tell me why?

K’dei die kinder zul’n fregen, mein kind –
and you’ve asked so well.
Our mesorah dictates
that the father should tell.

Will you give me an answer then?
Because I’ve asked so well?
Will you tell me everything,
all there is to tell?

Oh, mein kind, I have told you
all there is to tell.
We want children to ask,
and you’ve asked so well.

Tatteh leiben, ich vill dir fregen
But I want an answer too.
Ich hub gefregen die fir kashes –
questions I’ve asked of you.
Four and five and seven hundred questions
the whole seder through.
Bitte, enfer mir a teretz, Tatteh –
or is asking all I can do?

DocFile (8)
covering children’s curiosity with routine is untenable

Entry for Day 2 of NaPoWriMo.

Pesach is framed as a holiday aimed at children – the purpose is to pass on the knowledge to the next generation. (Traditionally, the answer to the Ma Nishtana is “Avadim Hayinu,” we were slaves in Egypt and were redeemed.)

And yet so many times, when a child asks, the answer they’ll get is “ah, we wanted you to ask. We wanted to do things differently so the children would be curious and ask.” And there is no answer beyond that.

While I re-created some of my father’s seder for myself on the the second night of Pesach, I was texting with some friends who were at their parents’ sedarim. “Seder 2.0 is the worst,” one said. “Especially with the same people all over again – it’s just so repetitive.”

So what am I saying with all this? I don’t know. This isn’t an essay – it’s a poem with some musings for context. You decide what the poem means!

My mini-seder on the second night of Pesach 2018.
The original text of the page from which I created the blackout above.

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