Why is this column different from every other column? Now that we’ve posed the first question, our second one is, are you expecting an answer? Thirdly, what are we trying to accomplish by asking questions? And finally, what significant gains accrue from asking questions?
For young children, the highlight of the Seder (aside of course from stealing the afikomen) is saying the four questions – the ma nishtana. For older children, the best part might be when they finally have a younger brother who can say them instead.
Whatever the case may be, our Sages ordained that toward the very beginning of every Seder, it is mandatory to ask four questions. Why?
Our Sages recognized that posing questions is one of the most effective learning tools, and method of opening up the channels of communication to put across a message or concept. It works for adults as well as for kids. Even an adult who sits alone at his Seder table is obligated to ask himself the four questions. The Sages set up the ma nishtana because it is a fantastic aid in challenging the Seder participants and involving them in the process.
Some might question that and say what’s the point? What can a person gain by posing a question to himself?
We observant Jews understand that all of the chochma of the world is contained in our Torah hakedosha. Our challenge is to learn how to extract that wisdom and extrapolate it to our own circumstances. When the Chazon Ish was alive, the greatest medical minds would seek him out before attempting a complicated procedure, not just to receive his bracha but even to get actual practical advice for surgery.
We may never be as brilliant as the Chazon Ish zt”l, but on our own levels, we too can cull marketing and advertising wisdom from the lessons of our Sages; particularly from the concepts underlying the ma nishtana.
Almost 10 years ago, a brilliant copywriter named Jono Polansky, who has campaigned against teenage smoking, wrote an outline of the dos and don’ts of public interest advertising. Jono’s most effective print ad strategy was to: Ask a question. “Frequently, framing the headline as a question is a good way to engage the reader and put him in charge. Remember: Effective ads are not about the sponsor, they’re about the reader. Asking a question shows that we care enough about what you think and feel; not to lecture you or force you to buy into a conclusion before the conversation even begins.”
Isn’t that precisely what the Seder is all about too? Our Sages knew how essential it was for all future generations to have the sense of being full participants in the Seder. After all, aren’t we instructed to feel as if we too left the slavery of Egypt?
The structure of the Seder is such that it puts us in charge. We recline like kings. The Haggadah is an open book – open for full and fertile discussion. When the youngest child asks the four questions, the Haggadah doesn’t suffice with the simple approach of answering the questions directly. It weaves a narrative; a rich tapestry of our history, our sufferings and redemptions, praise for HaKadosh Baruch Hu, as well as our yearning for the ultimate redemption, bimhera v’yamenu.
A marketing and advertising campaign is also rich and multifaceted, in content, and in the venues through which our message is disseminated. The message itself has to be clear and simple even while the campaign itself is broad and comprehensive.
Just as we conduct the Seder anew every year and do not suffice with last year’s or the years before, so too, must we revisit and refresh our marketing and advertising campaigns periodically. That way, we ensure that our message still resonates with the reader, and stays updated to reflect new products, accomplishments and developments.
When we sit down to our Seder this year, may it be Hashem’s will that it be as deep and meaningful as possible. And when we devise or renew our marketing and advertising campaigns, may it be His will that we ask the right questions so that we get the right responses. Chag kasher v’sameach!
Bottom Line Action Step: Do some “spring cleaning” on your advertising and marketing campaign. Keep it crisp like matzos, sharp as maror, sweet as charoses and may your establishment flourish like a grapevine!
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