Uriel Vigler

The Ma Nishtana of 2024

In a few days, Jews worldwide will sit around the Seder table celebrating the Festival of Our Freedom.

In short: the Jews were enslaved by the Egyptians, led by the tyrannic Pharoah, for over 200 years. Finally, by way of Moses and Aaron, the 10 plagues, the Splitting of the Sea and many miracles, G-d took us out of Egypt, out of slavery, out of spiritual desolation and brought us to Mount Sinai and eventually to the Land of Israel.

At the Seder, we recall both the slavery and the freedom, and consciously pass that piece of our heritage on to the next generation. We do things to pique the children’s interest, and encourage them to ask about everything they see.

After they ask the Ma Nishtana—the Four Questions—the parents answer, by going into the details of the story.

But this year, there are questions we cannot answer.

If this is the night of our freedom, the night Pharaoh finally let us go, then why are 134 of our brothers and sisters still held hostage in deplorable conditions after more than half a year? Ma Nishtana?

If this is the night G-d obliterated our enemies, why am I deathly afraid of an imminent attack from Iran which has proven itself an existential threat to millions of Jews? Ma Nishtana?

And if Pharaoh, arguably the first antisemite, was shown up by G-d that night, why are we experiencing a tidal wave of antisemitism in every country across the world right now? Ma Nishtana?

*Ma nishtana?* How is this night different? Has anything really changed? Are we even free?

As we sit around the Seder table and try to answer these four questions, we will lift our glasses and sing “Vehi She’amdah” – “In every generation, our enemies try to kill us, but G-d will always save us.”

This is the only answer we can offer: Our beloved Father in Heaven is the only one we can turn to. He and He alone is steadfastly on our side. Just as He saved us from the Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans, Greeks, Hitlers, Stalins and Arafats of the world, so too will He save us from Hamas, Hezbolla and the Iranian regime. No one else cares; no one else is our friend. Only Hashem.

So let’s invest in that relationship. Let’s turn to him and pray with all our hearts, “L’shana haba’ah b’Yerushalayim,” next year may we celebrate Passover in the Holy Land together with all our brothers and sisters from across the world, with Moshiach and the Final Redemption. May it happen imminently.

Wishing you an uplifting Passover.

About the Author
Zimbabwean-born Rabbi Uriel Vigler has been directing the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side of Manhattan together with his wife Shevy since 2005. In addition, he founded Belev Echad which helps wounded IDF soldiers. He has a weekly blog on current events. He is the proud father of eight children (including triplets) and leads a very young, vibrant and dynamic community.
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