Traditionally, the Maggid opens with the Ma Nishtana--the Four Questions. Tonight, however, we will also ask our own questions. Let's begin, though, by reading the traditional four questions along with Don Isaac Abrabanel's responses (for a biography of Don Isaac look further down in the Haggadah).
1. Why eat plain matza which is hard to digest? Poor laborers and slaves are fed matza not only because it is cheap but because it is filling and requires a long digestion period. The diet was designed by the oppressor to exploit the people efficiently.
2. Why eat raw, bitter vegetables? Maror is eaten plain only by the most oppressed workers who are given little time to prepare their meals. With more time they would have made these herbs into a tasty salad. On the other hand, dipping and reclining typify the manners of the leisure class in Roman times:
3. Why dip twice before eating? On seder night we are obligated to dip twice - karpas in salt water and maror in charoset – before the meal begins. Even today, finger foods dipped in tangy sauces are typical hors d’œuvres with cocktails (the first cup of wine) at banquets.
4. Why recline on pillows while drinking wine? The body language of the free reflects their ease and comfort. Reclining on sofas or pillows, everyone – big and small alike – experiences the freedom of the upper classes. On seder night these foods and these table manners are props and stage directions in the script acted out by all.
(based on Don Isaac Abrabanel's Zevach Pesach )
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