Ma Nishtana or Why is this year different?

by | Mar 24, 2022 | Trending News

Instead of asking, “Why is tonight different from all other nights?” the first of the traditional four questions asked by the youngest child at the Seder, Jewish News asked local rabbis, “Why is Passover this year different from the last two years?” With the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and plenty of political discord, their responses are thoughtful, rabbinic, and hopeful.


We’ll be back.

Rabbi Sender Haber

My uncle, whose presence extends the seder by a generation, will be back. Our guests, who might otherwise not have a seder, will be back. Memories of our proudly Jewish brothers and sisters fleeing Communist Russia will also be back.

Most importantly, we will all be back with a new appreciation for the ability to breathe, to congregate, and to celebrate our collective freedom to live fulfilled and G-dly lives.

Rabbi Sender Haber, B’nai Israel


Passover, 5782:
Something old, something new

Rabbi Michael Panitz

For the past two years, COVID-caused changes to our patterns of public interactions dominated the experience of celebrating Pesach—much of it “going virtual.”

That is partly still the case, but this year feels like a cautious step back towards earlier norms. At Temple Israel, we are bringing back our popular “matzah brei bake-off” as the kiddush luncheon after services on the second day of Passover, Sunday, April 17.

Still, you never just recapitulate the past. (If you did, my out-of-date neckties would suddenly be in fashion again!) The heightened level of police security at all of our functions and the remaining public health measures that we still have in place remind us that today is always a balance of tradition and change. This is true for life in general, and therefore, it is also true for our religious lives.

Rabbi Michael Panitz, Temple Israel.



If not me, who will do? If not now, when?

Rabbi Ari Oliszewski

Chag HaPesach is a Jewish holiday that asks us to think. During Pesach, we need to look forward and to see how we’ll continue.

Of course, it does not happen in an easy way because we need to answer: “Ma Nishtana HaLaila Hazeh MiKol HaLeilot?” What in this night is different from the other nights? And maybe, this year, the question needs to be: what on this is different from the last two? Or what has changed from two years ago?

I’m sure that a lot of things have changed, not only in the world, but also in our lives. We know COVID forced us to change, to pay attention to different kinds of things that in the past we didn’t care about… face masks, alcohol, washing hands more often, vaccines, etc. Many things came into our lives to stay.

Many things help us answer: MaNishtana? Too many things ISHTANU, have changed. And with these changes, came out some feelings. We felt like slaves with all the rules. But now, after two years of living within a pandemic world, we can say: We are almost free from the virus, we are almost free to return to our “normal” lives.

But we know that if we don’t take care of ourselves, the others, the world, we may find ourselves in a new virus again, into a new slave mode, and living again in isolation. Pesach gives us a new opportunity to think about who we are. Where are we going? And, what are our dreams?

We have the opportunity to answer the questions this year, and also, we have the chance to “change the world into a better place to raise our children.” The tools are in our hands, and as Pirkei Avot says: “If not me, who will do? If not now, when?”

Rabbi Ari Oliszewski, Temple Emanuel

Fear receding like the Sea of Reeds

Rabbi Dr. Israel Zoberman

This Pesach is different from the previous two given that finally the fear and anxiety of the pandemic plague are prayerfully receding, like the waters of the Sea of Reeds before the fleeing Israelites who glimpsed at last that divine freedom was within reach. Not unlike the Ukrainian refugees of all ages whose dangerous Exodus from Pharoah Putin’s suffocating grip ought to evoke our compassion, admiration, and support.

Those remaining behind to resist the aggressors are surely included, led by inspiring Jewish President Zelensky. The surviving Israelites were taught by true leader Moses that the ultimate response to their long enslavement was to reestablish their fractured lives and threatened peoplehood in a sacred context of fulfilling Mitzvot, honoring the God of Freedom and Responsibility.

So are we, the pandemic’s survivors, to reengage with renewed vigor and purpose in missed communal structures that bind and bond us to each other, the best within us and our embracing heritage of lasting values and ideals that the gift of liberty safeguards and enhances.

May Shalom’s blessings of healing, hope, and harmony be the portion of all of God’s children at these challenging crossroads again of plaguing tyranny of dictator and disease.

Wishing you a Chag Kasher V’ Sameach!

Rabbi Dr. Israel Zoberman, Temple Lev Tikvah

The youngest at the seder table will have another question to ask

Rabbi Ron Koas

On Passover, the youngest person at the table asks this question four times: “What makes this night different from all other nights?” This year, he or she will add one more question: “Why is Passover this year different from the last two years?”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Seder will be different from the last two years because the Seder is a communal tradition and in the last two years amid the coronavirus pandemic, we couldn’t gather together and celebrate the holiday. Large gatherings of people around a table sharing food and drinks wasn’t allowed. Most families had to isolate themselves, and extend the rituals to others through a virtual platform. This year we will be back with our families and friends. I personally will be in Israel with my family celebrating the Seder.

Rabbi Ron Koas, Congregation Beth El

Why is this Passover different from the past two years?

Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg

On the one hand, we have much for which to be grateful. The miraculous creation of vaccines and their efficacy in combatting COVID-19 have made it possible to share Seder with our loved ones freely. However, the death and distraction being waged against the innocent people of Ukraine remind us that we are far from realizing the Haggadah’s prayer of freedom for all people. There is much work to be done in our community, nation, and world to reach the promise of “Next Year in Jerusalem”—of the ultimate redemption of Jews and of all God’s children.

Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg, Ohef Sholom Temple