The Four Questions
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The Four Questions
The formal telling of the story of Passover is framed as a discussion with lots of questions and answers. The tradition that the youngest person asks the questions reflects the centrality of involving everyone in the seder. The rabbis who created the set format for the seder gave us the Four Questions to help break the ice in case no one had their own questions. Asking questions is a core tradition in Jewish life. If everyone at your seder is around the same age, perhaps the person with the least seder experience can ask them – or everyone can sing them all together.
מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילות
Ma nishtana halaila hazeh mikol haleilot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכלין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מצה
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin chameitz u-matzah. Halaila hazeh kulo matzah.
On all other nights we eat both leavened bread and matzah. Tonight we only eat matzah.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin shi’ar yirakot haleila hazeh maror.
On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight we eat bitter herbs.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָֽנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּֽעַם אחָת הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעמים
Shebichol haleilot ain anu matbilin afilu pa-am echat. Halaila hazeh shtei fi-amim.
On all other nights we aren’t expected to dip our vegetables one time. Tonight we do it twice.
שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָֽנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין. :הַלַּֽיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּֽנוּ מְסֻבין
Shebichol haleilot anu ochlin bein yoshvin uvein m’subin. Halaila hazeh kulanu m’subin.
On all other nights we eat either sitting normally or reclining. Tonight we recline.
Egypt, no sleet or snow for sure, not even rain or the usually hail.
Nourished only from an ancient wide stream,
On which women secretly shared the boy of redemption.
Our Seder recalls the signs and marvels, the plagues, the costly victory.
We will honor our timeless bread and play with sweet mortar; taste bitterness and tears.
We drink past our fill.
God will split their...
By Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder alternadox.net
Later on we will do ' rachtzah '─the washing over the matzah . Now we are doing ' urchatz ', which amounts to washing before eating a vegetable. This is not something we do every day.
To explain, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, first chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, writes of...
According to the Book of Exodus, there was a famine in the land of Canaan (later known as Israel). Because of this famine, the Hebrew patriarch Jacob traveled with his extended family of 70 to Egypt to both live inbetter conditions and be with his son Joseph. Joseph’s wisdom had impressed the Pharaoh of Egypt to the point that he was appointed Viceroy of Egypt, which was second in power only to the Pharaoh.
Source 1: Babylonian Talmud
Context: The Babylonian Talmud is a collection of Jewish stories, laws and debates grounded in the Bible and other Jewish texts. It was compiled in the fifth century in modern-day Iraq, but many portions of it are much older. Here, the Talmud quotes and comments on a passage from a second-century text called the Mishnah. The Mishnah asks, “How long must a person live in a city to be...
A Cup to our Teachers: To those we have known and those whose work has inspired us, and made space for our lives. We are grateful to you who did and said things for the first time, who claimed and reclaimed our traditions, who forged new tools. Thank you to the teachers around us of all ages-- the people we encounter everyday--who live out their values in small and simple ways, and who are our most regular and loving...
"A Not-So-Serious Passover Play for the Classroom or the Dining Room" by S. Mitchell
CHARACTERS: Slave Narrator, G_d (as a voice offstage), Moses, Aaron, Burning Bush, Pharoah
SLAVE NARRATOR: In Egypt we Hebrews had a difficult life. All day we worked under the whips of the taskmasters, making bricks and stacking them into giant pyramids, using nothing but our bare hands and a mixture of apples, raisins...
Let us all refill our cups.
[Take turns reading. Each person is invited to read a grouped set of lines - or to pass.]
Tonight we drink four cups of the fruit of the vine.
There are many explanations for this custom.
They may be seen as symbols of various things:
the four corners of the earth, for freedom must live everywhere;
the four seasons of the year,...
We start the seder by noticing what is out of the ordinary and then investigating its meaning further. How is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, we depend on the exploitation of invisible others for our food, clothing, homes, and more. Tonight, we listen to the stories of those who suffer to create the goods we use. We commit to working toward the human rights of all workers....
The world was awakened and shattered by the images of a little boy whose body lay lifeless amidst the gentle surf of a Turkish beach this past summer. Another nameless victim amongst thousands in the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the greatest refugee crisis since WWII. But this little boy, like every little boy ,had a name. His name was Aylan Kurdi (age 3), he drowned along with his older brother, Galip (age 5), and their...
From Oppression to Liberation:
For the Pursuit of Reproductive Justice in this Generation
The four cups of wine we drink this evening are symbols of our freedom and God's presence in our lives. But, as the seder ritual reminds us, freedom is an ongoing journey. True freedom can only be enjoyed when all our sisters, brothers and others are freed of the many burdens that would delay or deny...
On this night we retrace our steps from then to now, reclaiming years of desert wandering.
On this night we ask questions, ancient and new, speaking of servitude and liberation, service and joy.
On this night we welcome each soul, sharing stories of courage, strength, and faith.
On this night we open doors long closed, lifting our voices in songs of praise.
On this night we renew ancient...
This symbolic washing of the hands recalls the story of Miriam's Well. Legend tells us that this well followed Miriam, sister of Moses, through the desert, sustaining the Jews in their wanderings. Filled with mayim chayim, waters of life, the well was a source of strength and renewal to all who drew from it. One drink from its waters was said to alert the heart, mind and soul, and make the meaning of Torah become...
More Clips from Jewish Boston
1. What do you consider your “promised land,” or heaven on earth?
2. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is “Mitzraim,” which literally means “narrow place.” What is one way that you wish for our society to be more open?
3. Moses is considered one of the greatest leaders in our history — he is described as being smart, courageous, selfless and kind. Which of today’s leaders inspires you in a...
Over the years, the Passover story has evolved from a story just about Moses and Aaron to include their female counterparts. We set aside a cup of water for Miriam, celebrate Shifrah and Puah for their act of bravery and comment on Pharaoh’s daughter’s defiant move. As we commemorate the leadership of matriarchs in the Exodus story, the questions about our contemporary relationship to women’s rights and liberation...
The Passover Haggadah recounts ten plagues that afflicted Egyptian society. In our tradition, Passover is the season in which we imagine our own lives within the story and the story within our lives. Accordingly, we turn our thoughts to the many plagues affecting our society today. Our journey from slavery to redemption is ongoing, demanding the work of our hearts and hands. Here are ten “modern plagues”: