Over the course of Jewish history, the Four Questions have changed in number, order, and substance. In one of the earliest iterations from an 11th century manuscript of the Mishnah, we asked three questions:

1. On all other nights we dip once, on this night we dip twice.

2. On all other nights we eat chametz and matzah and on this night only matzah.

3. On all other nights we eat meat roasted, boiled and cooked, on this night only roasted.​

These three questions related to the three required foods of the seder: Pesach (the roasted lamb), Matzah, and Maror (which is dipped).

Dipping was asked first, because in the Middle Eastern culture of our ancestors, food was mainly eaten by dipping pita and vegetables into various dips and salads. Dipping would have been the norm at any meal, but dipping twice would have been unusual and worth asking about. The question of dipping remains the first question at Sephardi/Mizrahi seders today.

Over time, we began to dip other vegetables and the question of dipping became separated from the maror. Some seder plates have a separate space for chazeret (lettuce) that is distinct from the maror (bitter herb), though you can use lettuce in both spots. (Does our seder plate tonight have a space for chazeret? What did we put there?) To address the maror, a question was specifically added to the Mah Nishtana, so that the four questions became: dipping, matzah, maror, and roasted lamb.

Following the destruction of the Temple, we stopped asking about the Passover sacrifice and replaced it with the question of leaning. Again, leaning was a common way of eating in the Middle East, but once we were in the diaspora (especially in Europe), we were introduced to eating at tables. It's much harder to lean and eat while seated in a chair at a table, so the question of leaning/reclining was added to the Mah Nishtana as it became unusual in our everyday lives.

Some Haggadot kept the question of the roasted meat, but changed it to the past tense: "On all other nights we eat meat whether roasted, broiled or cooked, on this night  we used to eat in the Temple  only roast meat." Those Haggadot then had five questions, though by this point almost all Haggadot have removed the past tense question.

As we continue through the seder tonight, we are encouraged to ask even more questions!

haggadah Section: -- Four Questions