What questions from the Passover Seder do people really want answers to?
We asked: The Passover Seder, by design, is full of questions. The question and answer format is meant to awaken the curiosity of the participants. As a result, the Hagada includes the Four Questions at the beginning, the "Who Knows One?" song at the end, and many strange practices to elicit spontaneous questions from the children. Numerous commentators and contemporary editions of the Hagada have added their own questions and answers to the mix.
It seems, though, that to get people to think more deeply about the Seder, it would be helpful to collect questions that contemporary Seder-goers, taking into account whatever they already know about the Seder and everything surrounding it, actually want answers to. How can we find which questions meet this standard?
We answered: An excellent place to go for real questions that people have actually posed about almost any topic in Judaism is the online Jewish Q&A community - Mi Yodeya.
Mi Yodeya (whose name comes from the "Who Knows One?" song mentioned above) is the Jewish corner of a wonderful network of Q&A sites called Stack Exchange. Founded by computer programming writers Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood, Stack Exchange has developed a unique model for bringing together experts and learners around a topic and getting them to post high-quality questions and answers on that topic. Through open access, massive peer review, and a careful focus on clear, specific questions and answers, Stack Exchange has spawned successful Q&A communities on topics from Electrical Engineering to the English Language.
Judaism has always placed a high value on well-posed questions and answers and on sharing one's knowledge, and not just in the Hagada. The vast, complex realms of Jewish law and tradition and the interpretation of Jewish texts provide rich fodder for endless questions that fit the Stack Exchange pattern of being specific and answerable based on available evidence. So, it seemed natural to create a Stack Exchange community that deals with Judaism - Mi Yodeya.
Over the past few years, the community at Mi Yodeya has asked and answered more than six thousand questions about all kinds of Jewish topics, including many about various aspects of Passover. This year, we decided to share a select group of questions related to the Passover Seder in a new format - this Hagada supplement. Herein, we offer real questions that people genuinely wanted to see answered along with an array of answers from the diverse perspectives of our community members.
When you read these questions and answers, imagine that you're listening in on a conversation among your friends, perhaps around a Seder table. You'll notice different friends pronouncing Hebrew differently or sticking to English. One may be well-versed in Chassidic sources, while another is particularly fond of medieval commentators, and a third is strictly interested in the legal rulings of the Talmud. Even when matters of Jewish law are discussed, the aim of the conversation is to learn together, not to tell each other what to do, so you know that you'd better talk to your own rabbi before acting on any legal statements you hear.
You may even be inspired to join into the conversation. You are quite welcome to! Each question has a web address printed at the bottom that will lead you to the original Q&A post on Mi Yodeya. If you follow it, you'll find additional answers that we couldn't fit here, links to sources and related information, and the records of many community members working together to continuously improve each others' contributions. If you want to contribute an additional answer, you can do so right there. If you are inspired to ask a follow-up question, just find the "Ask Question" button at the top, and you'll be off and running. As soon as you add your new question or answer, you'll be enriching the Internet with your particular expression of Jewish curiosity or knowledge.
Also, we would be very interested to hear any feedback you may have on any aspect of this project as a whole. If you have participated on Mi Yodeya at least once, you'll be able to leave feedback in public through the project's home page. You can also email us at Mi.Yodeya@gmail.com. This is our first publication for print, but hopefully not the last, so anything you can tell us to help us make future publications even better would be a much-appreciated gift.
But first, we hope this Hagada supplement enhances your thinking about the Seder and even your actual Seder experience. Enjoy!
Contributors to this Introduction: