Will I be Able to Ask the Mah Nishtanah?

The storm clouds spread across the skies as the bloodthirsty hordes burst into the city and surrounded the bishops tower. Standing above the barred door a strong voice was heard, “the people in this tower or under my protection. Go on and shed not innocent blood!”

The armed mob responded, “hand them over! They are cursed and deserve to die!”

The bishop’s voice boomed, “what have they done, but practice their beliefs? All they ask is for peace.”

“We shall give them the peace of the grave” came a response as a mailed fist urged the crowd forward.

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In the lowest level of the tower there was a single cell, in it sat the last Jewish family of York, with one Jewish child. Until a time of peace comes there won’t be another Seder such as this.

The young boy takes a deep breath and begins, “Taty, ich fregen…, Father I ask, why do we suffer so much more than everyone else in the world?” This question travels one into the world to the other that ascends to the very heavens. The lone child in the lowest level of the tower in York is asking the King of all Kings the deepest of all questions. His father slowly begins to answer, “Avadim hayinu, we were slaves….”, Sadly the story is so long and has no end until the time of peace comes.

The young boy continues, “Taty, can I ask one more question of my own? Will you answer my questions at next year’s Seder? Will I be alive to ask the Mah Nishtanah? Will any Jewish voice be heard anywhere in the world to ask the Mah Nishtanah?” Silence fell in the heavens as the young boy asked Mah Nishtanah, but when he asked his own question, tears flowed freely throughout the heavens.

With a deep breath and a strong voice, the young boy’s father answered, “Ki v’sheim kodshechah nishbato lo, by Your Holy Name You promised to him shelo yichbeh neiro l’olam va’ed, that his light would never go out.

The father spoke to his son, “I don’t know if you will ask the Mah Nishtanah next year. I don’t know if I will be here to answer your questions. There is one thing I am sure of the, there will always be at least one holy child to ask the Mah Nishtanah, because the Holy One. blessed be He promised us there would always be a young voice to be heard.”

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When the rabbis of old originally asked Mah Nishtanah (Talmud Yerushalmi, Pesachim, 60b; Talmud Bavli, Pesachim, 116a) it was during the time of the Romans and their brutality, the Mah Nishtanah was asked and the Jewish people patiently waited for Moshiach. As the armies marched across Europe during the Crusades and countless thousands of people suffered terribly the Mah Nishtanah was asked and the Jewish people patiently waited for Moshiach. When the Black Death swept through the land and the Jewish communities were blamed, the Mah Nishtanah was asked and the Jewish people patiently waited for Moshiach. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella signed the fateful papers authorizing the Inquisition and expulsion, the Mah Nishtanah was asked and the Jewish people patiently waited for Moshiach. When Bogdan Chelminicki and his hordes massacred and destroyed whole Jewish communities, the Mah Nishtanah was asked and the Jewish people patiently waited for Moshiach. In the hopeless ghettos of Lodz, Bialystok, Częstochowa and Warsaw where death and destruction were common, the Mah Nishtanah was asked and the Jewish people patiently waited for Moshiach.

The question is raised, “When will the Messiah come? Today, if you listen to his voice.” (Sanhedrin 98a). The secret is hidden from man, but it is also revealed to him, because the coming of the Messiah depends not only on God’s grace but also on man’s deeds.  Our task is to bend our will to God’s will in order that we might heal those breaches that separate the man from his fellow man and that rammed a man within himself.

Until that day comes lets us say with a full heart, “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah (Moshiach), and though he may tarry, still I await him every day.” (Maimonides, 13 principles of faith).

The Mah Nishtanah will be said at every Seder now and in the time of Moshiach – the Messiah.

May your Seder welcome Eliyahu haNovi (Elijah the Prophet) and may he bring us

good tidings that we should be worthy of receiving the Messiah in our own lifetime.

 

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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