Oppressed people are not allowed to ask questions - they must only obey, accepting without questioning. The first step in pursuing freedom is always to ask - why? Tonight, in celebration of our freedom and in honor of the pursuit of freedom for all we ask "why" four times. Each of those four questions is part of a single, larger question.
How is this night different from all other nights?
Traditionally, the four questions are read by the youngest child, but they can and should be asked by anyone and everyone. Anyone who likes can ask:
1) On all other nights we may eat leavened bread or matzah. Why on this night do we eat only matzah?
2) On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables. Why on this night do we eat bitter herbs?
3) On all other nights we do not dip our food even once. Why on this night do we dip twice?
4) On all other nights we may either sit or recline. Why on this night are we expected to recline?
So why is this night different from all other nights? On this night we are celebrating the most important time in Jewish history, when we went forth from slavery to freedom. We'll start retelling that story after we answer the four questions:
1. Why do we eat matzah? When our ancestors left Egypt, they did so in a hurry. They had no time for the bread to rise, so they took the unleavened bread with them. We remember that while we have enough to eat today, there were times when we went hungry, and there are many who are still hungry today.
2. Why do we eat the bitter herbs? We eat them to remember the bitterness of living in slavery in Egypt, and to remind ourselves of the bitterness of oppression felt today.
3. Why do we dip our herbs twice? We dip the karpas into salt water, to remind ourselves of the tears we shed when we were slaves and to share in the tears shed by those who are still not free. We dip the matzah into the charoset as a reminder that bitterness and the salty tears of oppression can give way to the sweetness of freedom.
4. Why do we recline at the table? We recline as a symbol of our freedom. Those who are not free are never comfortable. We celebrate our freedom to be comfortable, and commit ourselves to making sure everyone can live comfortably.
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