Between now and the end of Passover, I’m sharing excerpts from my book “The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked“. It blends wisdom and themes from Passover with common questions (and their answers) heard when you are setting up and running monitoring and observability solutions.
At the heart of the Pesach, or Passover, meal, there’s a section called the Maggid (“to tell”) where the reasons for this meal and the holiday are described. It contains the oldest text of the seder, and indeed, one of the oldest texts found in the Torah. It reads:
אֲרַמִּי֙ אֹבֵ֣ד אָבִ֔י
arami oved avi
Translated, this reads “My father was a wandering Aramean.”
This sentence doesn’t speak to the exodus from Mitzrayim, nor does it address the plagues which preceded the exodus. or the burning bush, or the years of enslavement. In this passage, the wandering Aramean is Yaakov (Jacob). His son Yosef (Joseph) is sold into slavery and sent down to Mitzrayim, where a chain of events results in him eventually becoming second-in-command to Paro (Pharaoh) and helping avert a region-wide famine. Yosef brings his entire family down to Mitzrayim to weather this seven-year event, but they become entrenched there and eventually Yaakov’s entire family, also known as B’nei Yisrael (the House of Israel), become slaves to Paro. This condition–being slaves in Mitzrayim–is where the exodus story picks up the thread.
In essence, the Maggid begins at the story before the story before the story.
It’s important to understand that the Maggid doesn’t start with, “My father was a wandering Aramean…” That phrase appears only after the four questions I mentioned in the last chapter. The youngest person at the table asks, “Why is this all happening,” and everyone sort of huddles up and starts to answer.
One of the lessons the Maggid is subtly conveying is this: When we’re asked a question, we need to know how to provide context to the answer, or else the answer will be ignored.
For many monitoring engineers, “Why did I get this alert?” is the first monitoring-related question they must answer. More important, it may be the first serious monitoring-related question a colleague may ask us. It’s imperative that we not miss this invitation. We must also be prepared to respond in a way that answers the question and provides context so that the answer can be fully understood.