Lessons from the Seder

Another year, another lovely Passover with the family has come and gone. Yet some of the lessons from the seder remained in my soul and demanded further inspection upon unrolling my mat each morning for the past couple of days.
Having always been a big fan of this holiday, I considered myself not an expert, but at the very least a very good student of the story of freedom narrated through out the night. I thought I understood why we tell the story of Moses, who aided by God, was able to free the people of Israel from slavery, I thought I had a full grasp on why we talk about the plagues, hide the afikomen, drink several cups of wine, eat the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs, and wait for Elijah to come by as a messenger of things to come.
However, what I had not considered was the fact that I had no earthly clues as to why we continuously asked the youngest person in the room to ask “the 4 questions”, which are as follows:
1) On all other nights we eat either leavened or unleavened bread; why on this night only unleavened bread?
2) On all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs; why on this night only bitter herbs?
3) On all other nights we need not dip our herbs even once; why on this night must we dip them twice?
4) On all other nights we eat either sitting up or reclining; why on this night do we all recline?
The questions had always seemed dreary and useless to me, as I, and anyone who has ever attended a Passover seder for more than 16 year in a row, would know the answers by heart at this point and therefore would feel, as I did, that the redundant nature of the questions every year was a bit over the top.
These questions are answered by the man (or woman) leading the seder in a peculiar manner. Rather than addressing the questions head on, a story about 4 children is told. “One wise, one wicked, one simple and one who does not know how to ask a question”
None of this had ever made sense to me or really mattered much to me since, in my estimation, I knew all there was to know about the story and felt bored to hear these questions over and over, year after year.
However, this year, something interesting happened. The morning after the Passover feast, I unrolled my mat, and as soon as I sat down to breathe, before I even moved an inch, it hit me. I was the four children.
The 4 questions had served as a way for me to come to the realization that in my life, I have acted as each one of these children.
The wicked child asks, what does this drudgery mean to you. This, is a clear statement that what those around him are doing is not his concern, and that he is in some way above, beyond or simply separate from those around him. And like the wicked child, I have been wicked in thinking (at different stages in my life) that what is important to others should not be my concern, or in thinking that I am in any way better than or simply separate from others around me, when in reality, we are all at our very core one and the same.
Over the last years of my life, through the practice of yoga, I have been able to learn that the illusion of separateness is just that, an illusion, and it can be dispelled when we are willing to realize how we are all in essence one and the same, how loving one another, hurting when the other one hurts, and always wanting to keep ahimsa can change the way we relate to ourselves and others on a day to day basis.
It has always been painful to me to hear people state that those who are homeless “choose to be this way because they are too lazy to work and earn a living” or to hear people say that “what happens in other countries is not our business and we should not get involved” or that “giving money to a charity is nothing but a scam waiting to happen” and now that I realize that one person’s pain and suffering affects the whole of humanity, I understand why. Unfortunately, I do find that in many ways, the wicked child in me utilizes new ways to judge and create a barge between other beings and myself, so if I can stop asking, “what does this drudgery mean to you?” I can open myself to more compassion. I can open up to grace and feel allow myself to become connected to all creatures as opposed to feeling separate from them.
The simple son asks, “What’s this?” with no understanding of what is going on around him. In many ways, I feel I am this child more than any of the others, as I often find myself caught up in my life so deeply, that there can be a lack of awareness and knowledge of what goes on around me and in other people’s lives. But what if I made an effort to stay connected, to stay grounded, to listen, to learn and to be willing to always keep a beginners mind? I think that adding a sense of curiosity, in my case, the same sense of curiosity that I am filled with when learning about my practice, can help me see the world with a never ending willingness to learn and share with others around me.
The child who does not know how to ask, is simply given an answer and I think we can all admit to lacking the words, or the willingness to try to learn how to relate to others. In a world that can make us slightly apathetic, we can become complacent and lose our ability to learn or lose our want for knowledge. Something, that I think a beginners mind can also help with. However, the true dispelling of ignorance is knowledge, in this case (at least in my understanding) knowledge of the self will lead to wisdom and maturity, which is why the practice is so incredible. When we step on our mats, we embark on an internal journey, we allow our breaths to carry us into a state of meditative flow and we allow ourselves to go deep inside our bodies, minds and spirits, allowing us to come face to face with who we are at our very core. The more we practice, the more we are able to connect with ourselves, and those around us, and the more we connect, the more we learn, the more we grow and the more we can dispel the cobwebs of wickedness, simple-mindedness, and ignorance from our lives.
Which leads me to the wise child, the child I hope I can become through my practice. This child is understanding and empathetic, he has reached (in yogic terms) samadihi he has been able to allow the roots of the yoga tree to create fruit and through that, he has been able to find his Union with the Divine, which is ultimately, what our goal as yogis is, both on and off the mat.
So, as I allow my practice to grow, I will allow all 4 children with in to learn and evolve and open to grace so that when the time comes, they may all have evolved into one loving, wise child.

"Who is wise? He who learns from every person (Pirkei Avos 4:1)." Indeed, the classical title for a Torah scholar is 'Talmid Chacham' - a wise student.