It’s traditional to ask the four questions at Passover, and it’s becoming quite common to add a fifth (besides “When do we eat?”).
A fifth question tends to rise in relation to needs. During the Soviet Jewry movement, it was often asked, “Why is this land different from other lands?” Or it might have been phrased, “Why is this night no different from other nights?” And the answer would be: “Because on this night millions of human beings around the world still remain enslaved, just as they do on all other nights.”
It is, unfortunately, still meaningful – and still right and painful to think, at the celebration of freedom, of those who are enslaved.
A few years ago, American Jewish World Service created a fifth Passover question, on a card to be distributed by rabbis to their congregants, “How can we make this year different from all other years?” It calls on Jews to “recommit to that sacred responsibility to protect the stranger, particularly those vulnerable strangers in faraway places whose suffering is so often ignored.”
The genocide in Darfur has been a major focus of this admirable group, but its reach spans the globe – as does this call to commitment. In fact, AJWS scheduled March 19 and 20 as Global Hunger Shabbat, according to a press release, “as a day of solidarity, education, reflection, and advocacy to raise awareness about hunger.”
And Mazon: A Jewish response to hunger, asks “Why, on this night, are millions of people going hungry?”
This is a marvelously relevant question, incorporating a theme of the seder – “Let all who are hungry come and eat” – and a current pressing need. We say those words every year, but how often do we think about what they mean? The Haggadah is not kidding: Everyone who wants to eat on that night must be fed.
Mazon’s answer? “Because on this night, like every other night, millions of people living in poverty have no other choice.”
On its Website, Mazon.org, are printable fliers and place mats, as well as ways to donate to feed the hungry.
Many people donate 3 percent of the cost of a simcha. Why not you? (But that’s a sixth question.)