Someone once approached the town’s rabbi just before Pesach and asked if he could fulfill the obligation of drinking four cups of wine at the Seder by drinking cups of milk instead. The rabbi said “No” and gave the person who asked a nice donation. The rabbi’s wife then asked: “Why did you give him so much money? Four cups of wine don’t cost that much.” And he answered: “I gave him enough for all the expenses of a proper Seder because from his question I understood that he had none of the Seder necessities. How is it possible to drink milk at a festival meal that includes meat?”
The message here is clear. Sometimes a person may turn to us with a seemingly simple question that is easy to answer or a request with which we can easily comply. Yet when we hear a question, it is not enough to answer like a robot. A question could indicate distress on the part of the questioner that could be resolved with our help. On this holiday of Pesach that celebrates asking questions, we want to make sure that we really understand the questions that are asked in order to answer them in the most complete and meaningful way.
To Cry Out
Several days ago, several thousand women gathered at Biyanei HaUma (International Convention Center) in Jerusalem for the annual “Azamrah” (I Will Sing) event. Singers Yuval Dayan, Din Din Aviv, Rika Razel, and Ruchama Ben Yosef sang their most beautiful songs. But then Ruchama suddenly interrupted the singing. “Let’s cry out,” she said. “Let’s just shout.”
She explained that before the Exodus from Egypt, when everything seemed stuck, when no solution had yet appeared on the horizon, the redemption began when the nation of Israel simply lifted its eyes towards heaven and cried out to G-d. This was a shout that went beyond words. A shout whose meaning was: Enough already, we can’t take it anymore, bring us out of this impossible situation.
And indeed, this shout was heard, as we will read this week in the Pesach Haggadah: “And we cried out to the G-d of our fathers – and the Lord heard our voice.” Rebbe Nachman of Breslov writes that this is one of the most important messages of the Haggadah: to know how to cry out.
So we shouted. Initially, this was very awkward, and then a little less awkward until, after around half a minute, 3,000 women were crying out together with all their hearts. For themselves, for the entire nation of Israel, for the whole world. It was a shout that, even now, still echoes in my mind.
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin