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And the One Who Does Not Know How to Ask

And the one who does not know how to ask – You must open the conversation for him, as it is stated, “You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘Because of this Hashem did for me when I went out from Egypt’.”

But perhaps the one who does not know how to ask is actually the evening’s most important guest?

Of the four sons who come to the Seder table, the compiler of the Haggadah gave expression to a special type of participant. Those who don’t know how to ask. Those who come because they were told to come; those who understand that the evening marks a foundational event but beyond that don’t know what is being celebrated or why they are expected to start asking questions. The truth is that even the one who doesn’t know how to ask knows quite a few things and likely knows the main thing: that from generation to generation, Jews have gathered on this night in order to tell themselves the foundational story of the Jewish people. He also knows that the story has to do with a journey from slavery to freedom.

Tonight, we have with us thousands who do not know how to ask, thousands who left “in haste” everything they held dear and who from one moment to the next lost not only their material possessions but also their own foundational story. At the heart of each person lies a story. And if we take that story from him or her, the person will no longer know who s/he is or where s/he is going. A person without a story has trouble navigating, making ethical decisions, and choosing a path and a direction for him- or herself.

The Passover Seder is an opportunity for refugees in particular – but for all of us as well – to retell our story: Man was born to be free. Those who have endured a lack of freedom and who have been “slaves in Egypt” know the importance of the “Exodus from Egypt.” They know from personal experience how the lack of freedom causes one to lose one’s self-respect and one’s moral compass. This evening we are fighting for the story. This evening we are telling ourselves and those around us that one can emerge even from the darkness of Egypt. The Jewish people believes in the human being’s ability to take his fate into his own hands, and to build a new world with less suffering. The Jewish people believes that man has the ability to go “from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to joy, from mourning to festivity, from darkness to bright light, and from bondage to redemption.”

Although this story was originally that of the Jewish people, it has long been the possession of humanity as a whole. A people that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust is living proof to all those who are oppressed, and to all refugees, that there is hope in the world. At present, the refugees do not know how to ask because they don’t know what to ask or how to begin the rehabilitation process. When faced with those who are struck silent, with refugees, we must put into practice what the Passover Haggadah instructs us: At ptach lo – “You must open the conversation for him (or her).” We must open our heart and ear to the refugee, initiate the conversation, extend our hand and help him or her compose a story for him- or herself that can help reconstruct their life and become a person with his or her own foundational story.