Later on in the Hagaddah we are told that anyone who has not mentioned “Pesach” (the Paschal sacrifice), “matzah” and “marror” has not carried out the full mitzvah of the Seder.
Perhaps this helps explain why we say Mah Nishtanah.
Its first two clauses concern our obligation to eat matzah and marror.
In the original versions of Mah Nishtanah, related in the Talmud, another clause concerned our obligation to eat the Paschal sacrifice. The difference between Seder night and other nights, we used to say, was that "On all other nights we eat meat which has been roasted, stewed, or boiled, but on this night we eat only roasted meat [ ie the korban Pesach ]".
On the most basic level, these verses are simply pointing out the obvious: that the specific commandments of Seder night make it different to all other nights.
But are they – or rather, were they originally – also a roundabout way of getting the children to refer to Pesach, matzah and marror, perhaps acknowledging that they were unlikely to make it to the end of the maggid text, when they are explicitly mentioned again?
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