Why Is This Night...?
"Kinderlach, tonight I am going to tell you a story about something that happened to me a long time ago."
"Was it a good thing, Abba?"
"It was a very good thing, Ahuva. However, it didn't always look so good. In the beginning, things looked very bad. Kinderlach, at one time I was a very poor man. I did not have good clothes or good food. I had to work very hard without rest."
"It sounds like you had a difficult job, Abba."
"Leah, it was much worse than that. I was a slave. I could never do what I wanted. I had a master and I had to do what he wanted."
"Was he a nice master, Abba?"
"No, he was very cruel, Avi. I suffered terribly. The situation was almost hopeless. I cried out to Hashem to help me. Then, one day, miracles began to happen. One miracle after another, until I was freed from slavery, my master was killed, and I became a rich man."
"Were you the only one, Abba?"
"No, Chaim. This happened to the entire Jewish people."
"Wow! Tell us all about it!"
"Okay. Not only am I going to tell you, but also I am going to show you! And guess what? I have a special treat for you. Everyone will get to participate in the telling of the story of what happened to us."
"Abba, it sounds like we are not just telling the story...we are reliving it!"
"Exactly kinderlach. Everything that we do tonight is to relive what happened to the Jewish people. That is why we are dressed up in our best clothes. And the table is set so royally. Because we are free men. Okay, now let's begin."
RICH OR SLAVES?
"Ahuva, tonight please bring the washing basin to me here at the table. You are showing that I am a wealthy free man and that I do not even have to get up from the table to wash my hands."
"Great! We are washing now! That means that we are going to eat the matzah. Boy am I hungry!"
"No, we're not eating the matzah yet, Avi."
"What are we eating?"
"Karpas -- a vegetable."
"Why are we eating karpas before matzah? Don't we always eat the matzah first?"
"Normally we do, but tonight we are rich men. A rich man has all kinds of delicacies to dip into before the meal."
"But Abba, what are we dipping into?"
"That's not a delicacy."
"I know. It is to remind us of the tears that we shed when we were slaves in Egypt."
"I don't understand Abba. Are we free tonight or are we slaves?"
"Patience kinderlach, let's continue with the Seder."
SAVE SOME FOR LATER
"Kids, now I am breaking the matzah."
"Wait Abba! Don't break that matzah! You didn't make the bracha of "hamotzi" yet. We always make the blessing on a whole matzah before we break it."
"Excellent observation Leah. I broke the matzah first because that is the way a poor man eats. He does not eat all of his food at one time. He only eats part of his food, and then he puts the rest away for later."
"Because he does not know if he will have more food later. Poverty is hard."
"But I thought you said that we were free men tonight?"
"Patience kids, let's continue with the Seder."
POOR MAN'S BREAD/FREEDOM BREAD
"Kids, this is poor man's bread."
"Why do we call it that, Abba?"
"There are three reasons Chaim. The first is time. Did you ever watch or help Imma make challahs?"
"Sure. It takes a long time."
"Exactly. A poor man does not have a long time to bake bread. He bakes matzah because it is quick. It also uses less oven heat, which costs less. A poor man does not have enough money to heat an oven long enough to make bread."
"What is the third reason Abba?"
"Matzah is more satisfying than bread. It stays longer in the tummy. A poor man does not have enough to eat, so he needs food that stays a long time in his tummy. You know, kids, in Egypt, they did not give us enough time to bake bread. We would start to bake and our taskmasters would yell at us, 'Stop your baking and back to work! Take that bread out of the oven NOW!' We only had time for matzah, not bread."
"But wait, Abba. I thought we eat the matzah because the dough did not have enough time to rise when we went out of Egypt. We left so quickly, that the dough could not rise."
"Excellent Ahuva! So matzah really is the bread of freedom. It reminds us of how we were freed from slavery in Egypt."
"Abba, what is it? Poor man's bread or freedom bread?"
"Patience kids, let's continue with the Seder."
"Yankie, you read the Mah Nishtanah so well! I can tell that you've been practicing."
"Thank you Abba. I have a question for you. Two of the changes that we make tonight are to show that we are free men -- we eat reclining, and we dip the food into delicacies. The other two changes are to show that we are slaves -- matzah and maror. What are we tonight? Free or slaves?"
"Okay, kids, I've kept you in suspense long enough. Now I am going to tell you the whole story."
WE WOULD STILL BE THERE
"We were once slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, until Hashem took us out of there in a miraculous fashion."
"What was so miraculous?"
"You should know, that Egypt was the world superpower of the time. Can you guess how many slaves escaped from Egypt?"
"Right. No one ever escaped from Egypt. It was like a maximum-security prison. Locks, gates, sentries, and even witchcraft. If Hashem had not taken the Jewish people out, we would still be slaves to this very day. Since we are not slaves, we must realize that Hashem took us out of Egypt.
"One who tells the Sipur Yitziat Mitzraim, the Story of Leaving Egypt, with great simcha (happiness) is assured of happiness in the next world. Nothing makes Hashem as happy as the one who tells the story in great detail. Hashem gathers all of the Heavenly Angels together to listen to the story that we are telling here tonight."
"If you did a great favor for someone, Avi, would you be happy if they appreciated it?"
"Hashem did us the greatest favor possible. He took us out of Egypt and did many other things, as we will see in a short while when we say "dayeinu." By telling the story with great happiness we show Hashem how much we appreciate all He did for us.
"Okay kids, let's begin the story now. Imagine that you were all there back in Mitzraim..."
This article is an excerpt from "You Left Mitzraim" -- The Kinder Torah Hagaddah Companion available from the author Simcha Groffman, <firstname.lastname@example.org>