The Story of the Four Questions

A Jew is going to be knighted by the Queen of England, and as part of the ceremony he must say a phrase in Latin. At the ceremony each person is knighted by the queen and says their phrase in Latin. The Jew is knighted and then suddenly forgets the phrase. He quickly says the first non-English phrase that comes to mind, "Ma nishtana halaila hazeh mikol haleilot?" The queen turns to her advisors and asks, "Why is this knight different from all other knights?"

- Traditional Jewish joke

A Quick Refresher on the Text

מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת? 1.שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה – כֻּלּוֹ מַצָּה.

2.שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה (כֻּלּוֹ) מָרוֹר.

3.שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים. 4.שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין.

What differentiates this night from all other nights?

1. On all other nights we eat leavened and unleavened bread; this night, only unleavened.

2. On all other nights we eat other vegetables; tonight only bitter herbs.

3. On all other nights we don't dip our food even one time; tonight we dip it twice.

4. On all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining; tonight we all recline.

Context: This is from the Passover Haggadah, in the Maggid section, right after Ha Lachma Anya where we have invited anybody who is hungry to come join us. Ma Nishtana effectively kicks off the storytelling part of the Maggid section (which is where we tell the story).

Besides the fact that this is really The Four Answers, what questions does this text raise for you?

The sources in the Torah that relate to the mitzvah of telling the story

(כו) וְהָיָ֕ה כִּֽי־יֹאמְר֥וּ אֲלֵיכֶ֖ם בְּנֵיכֶ֑ם מָ֛ה הָעֲבֹדָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את לָכֶֽם׃ (כז) וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֡ם זֶֽבַח־פֶּ֨סַח ה֜וּא לַֽיהוָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר פָּ֠סַח עַל־בָּתֵּ֤י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּמִצְרַ֔יִם בְּנָגְפּ֥וֹ אֶת־מִצְרַ֖יִם וְאֶת־בָּתֵּ֣ינוּ הִצִּ֑יל וַיִּקֹּ֥ד הָעָ֖ם וַיִּֽשְׁתַּחֲוּֽוּ׃

(26) And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this rite?’ (27) you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the LORD, because G-d passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when G-d smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses.’” The people then bowed low in homage.

(ח) וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה ה' לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם.

(8) And you shall explain to your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I went free from Egypt.’

(יד) וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־יִשְׁאָלְךָ֥ בִנְךָ֛ מָחָ֖ר לֵאמֹ֣ר מַה־זֹּ֑את וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֔יו בְּחֹ֣זֶק יָ֗ד הוֹצִיאָ֧נוּ יְהוָ֛ה מִמִּצְרַ֖יִם מִבֵּ֥ית עֲבָדִֽים׃

(14) And when, in time to come, your child asks you, saying, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to them, ‘It was with a mighty hand that the LORD brought us out from Egypt, the house of bondage.

(כ) כִּֽי־יִשְׁאָלְךָ֥ בִנְךָ֛ מָחָ֖ר לֵאמֹ֑ר מָ֣ה הָעֵדֹ֗ת וְהַֽחֻקִּים֙ וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוָּ֛ה יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ אֶתְכֶֽם׃ (כא) וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ לְבִנְךָ֔ עֲבָדִ֛ים הָיִ֥ינוּ לְפַרְעֹ֖ה בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וַיּוֹצִיאֵ֧נוּ יְהוָ֛ה מִמִּצְרַ֖יִם בְּיָ֥ד חֲזָקָֽה׃ (כב) וַיִּתֵּ֣ן יְהוָ֡ה אוֹתֹ֣ת וּ֠מֹפְתִים גְּדֹלִ֨ים וְרָעִ֧ים ׀ בְּמִצְרַ֛יִם בְּפַרְעֹ֥ה וּבְכָל־בֵּית֖וֹ לְעֵינֵֽינוּ׃ (כג) וְאוֹתָ֖נוּ הוֹצִ֣יא מִשָּׁ֑ם לְמַ֙עַן֙ הָבִ֣יא אֹתָ֔נוּ לָ֤תֶת לָ֙נוּ֙ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר נִשְׁבַּ֖ע לַאֲבֹתֵֽינוּ׃

(20) When, in time to come, your children ask you, “What mean the decrees, laws, and rules that the LORD our God has enjoined upon you?” (21) you shall say to your children, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and the LORD freed us from Egypt with a mighty hand. (22) The LORD wrought before our eyes marvelous and destructive signs and portents in Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household; (23) and us G-d freed from there, that G-d might take us and give us the land that G-d had promised on oath to our ancestors.

This is the origin of the Four Children. Clearly, we are commanded to tell the story to our children when they ask.

What if they don’t ask? How can you fulfill your requirement to tell them the story?

(ב) מִצְוָה לְהוֹדִיעַ לַבָּנִים וַאֲפִלּוּ לֹא שָׁאֲלוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות יג-ח) "וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ". לְפִי דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל בֵּן אָבִיו מְלַמְּדוֹ. כֵּיצַד. אִם הָיָה קָטָן אוֹ טִפֵּשׁ אוֹמֵר לוֹ בְּנִי כֻּלָּנוּ הָיִינוּ עֲבָדִים כְּמוֹ שִׁפְחָה זוֹ אוֹ כְּמוֹ עֶבֶד זֶה בְּמִצְרַיִם וּבַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה פָּדָה אוֹתָנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וַיּוֹצִיאֵנוּ לְחֵרוּת. וְאִם הָיָה הַבֵּן גָּדוֹל וְחָכָם מוֹדִיעוֹ מַה שֶּׁאֵרַע לָנוּ בְּמִצְרַיִם וְנִסִּים שֶׁנַּעֲשׂוּ לָנוּ עַל יְדֵי משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ הַכּל לְפִי דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל בֵּן:

(2) It's a mitzvah to make it known to children, even if they didn't ask, as it is said (Exodus 13:8) "and you shall tell your child." The father should teach according to the understanding of his child. How? If the child is young or foolish, he should say to them, 'My child, we were all slaves like that handmaid, or like that servant, in Egypt, and on this night, the Holy One, blessed be G-d, redeemed us and brought us out to freedom.' And if the child is older and wise, he should teach them what happened in Egypt and about the miracles that were done for us through Moses--all is according to the understanding of his child.

Context: This is from Maimonides, from the “Laws of Passover” part of the Mishneh Torah.

Educational psychology tells us that people learn better when they want to learn. If your child doesn’t ask the question spontaneously, what can you do in order to have a reason to tell them about Passover?

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן הַכֹּל חַיָּיבִין בְּאַרְבָּעָה כּוֹסוֹת הַלָּלוּ אֶחָד אֲנָשִׁים וְאֶחָד נָשִׁים וְאֶחָד תִּינוֹקוֹת אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוּדָה וְכִי מָה תּוֹעֶלֶת יֵשׁ לְתִינוֹקוֹת בְּיַיִן אֶלָּא מְחַלְּקִין לָהֶן קְלָיוֹת וֶאֱגוֹזִין בְּעֶרֶב פֶּסַח כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִשְׁנוּ וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ אָמְרוּ עָלָיו עַל רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא שֶׁהָיָה מְחַלֵּק קְלָיוֹת וֶאֱגוֹזִין לְתִינוֹקוֹת בְּעֶרֶב פֶּסַח כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִשְׁנוּ וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ תַּנְיָא רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר חוֹטְפִין מַצּוֹת בְּלֵילֵי פְּסָחִים בִּשְׁבִיל תִּינוֹקוֹת שֶׁלֹּא יִשְׁנוּ

The Sages taught in a baraita: All are obligated in these four cups, including men, women, and children. Rabbi Yehuda said: What benefit do children receive from wine? They do not enjoy it. Rather, one distributes to them roasted grains and nuts on Passover eve, so that they will not sleep and also so they will ask the four questions at night. They said about Rabbi Akiva that he would distribute roasted grains and nuts to children on Passover eve, so that they would not sleep and so they would ask. It was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Eliezer says: One grabs the matzot on the nights of Passover on account of the children, so they will not sleep and they will inquire into the meaning of this unusual practice.

Context: This is from the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Pesachim, which is about Passover.

Do kids need to drink 4 cups of wine? What about grape juice?

Why are we giving kids nuts?

אָמַר רַב שִׁימִי בַּר אָשֵׁי מַצָּה לִפְנֵי כׇּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מָרוֹר לִפְנֵי כׇּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד וַחֲרוֹסֶת לִפְנֵי כׇּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד וְאֵין עוֹקְרִין אֶת הַשֻּׁלְחָן אֶלָּא לִפְנֵי מִי שֶׁאוֹמֵר הַגָּדָה
Rav Shimi bar Ashi said: Matza must be placed before each and every participant at the seder. Each participant in a seder would recline on a couch at his own personal table. Likewise, bitter herbs must be placed before each and every participant, and ḥaroset must be placed before each and every participant. And during the seder, before the meal, one shall remove the table only from before the one reciting the Haggadah. The other tables, which correspond to the seder plates used nowadays, are left in their place.

Context: From Tractate Pesachim, again. When it says “remove the table”, it means “remove the Seder plate”. When it says “from before the one reciting the Haggadah”, it means “from the leader” because before the 1400s all Haggadot were handwritten, so there weren’t many copies.

What elements of the Seder do you notice in this text?

Why do you think they are taking away the leader’s plate at this point?

לָמָּה עוֹקְרִין אֶת הַשּׁוּלְחָן אָמְרִי דְּבֵי רַבִּי יַנַּאי כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּכִּירוּ תִּינוֹקוֹת וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ אַבָּיֵי הֲוָה יָתֵיב קַמֵּיהּ דְּרַבָּה חֲזָא דְּקָא מַדְלִי תַּכָּא מִקַּמֵּיהּ אֲמַר לְהוּ עֲדַיִין לָא קָא אָכְלִינַן אָתוּ קָא מְעַקְּרִי תַּכָּא מִיקַּמַּן אֲמַר לֵיהּ רַבָּה פְּטַרְתַּן מִלּוֹמַר מָה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה
The Gemara asks: Why does one remove the table? The school of Rabbi Yannai say: So that the children will notice that something is unusual and they will ask: Why is this night different from all other nights? The Gemara relates: Abaye was sitting before Rabba when he was still a child. He saw that they were removing the table from before him, and he said to those removing it: We have not yet eaten, and you are taking the table away from us? Rabba said to him: You have exempted us from reciting the questions of: Why is this night different [ma nishtana], as you have already asked what is special about the seder night.

Context: This story, right after the previous text, takes place in Babylonia in the middle of the Talmudic period, perhaps around 350 C.E.

What can we learn from this story about how these rabbis understood the function of the Mah Nishtanah?

Why would someone be exempt from saying the Mah Nishtanah?

גְּמָ׳ תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן חָכָם בְּנוֹ שׁוֹאֲלוֹ וְאִם אֵינוֹ חָכָם אִשְׁתּוֹ שׁוֹאַלְתּוֹ וְאִם לָאו הוּא שׁוֹאֵל לְעַצְמוֹ וַאֲפִילּוּ שְׁנֵי תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים שֶׁיּוֹדְעִין בְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח שׁוֹאֲלִין זֶה לָזֶה

GEMARA: The Sages taught: If his son is wise and knows how to inquire, his son asks him. And if he is not wise, his wife asks him. And if even his wife is not capable of asking or if he has no wife, he asks himself. And even if two Torah scholars who know the halakhot of Passover are sitting together and there is no one else present to pose the questions, they ask each other [this leads into the Ma Nishtana]

Context: This is the Gemara, commenting on the Mishnah’s version of Ma Nishtana (which we’ll see in a minute). Hebrew has no gender-neutral word for “offspring”, so when it says “his son” that can also be read as “his child” (especially in this day and age). This text is particularly important when you are at a seder without a young child; Judaism is not a pediatric religion.

If it’s not just about the child, why are questions so important?

(ד) מָזְגוּ לוֹ כוֹס שֵׁנִי, וְכָאן הַבֵּן שׁוֹאֵל אָבִיו, וְאִם אֵין דַּעַת בַּבֵּן, אָבִיו מְלַמְּדוֹ, מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת, שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻלּוֹ מַצָּה. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בָּשָׂר צָלִי, שָׁלוּק, וּמְבֻשָּׁל, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻלּוֹ צָלִי. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין פַּעַם אַחַת, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים. וּלְפִי דַעְתּוֹ שֶׁל בֵּן, אָבִיו מְלַמְּדוֹ. מַתְחִיל בִּגְנוּת וּמְסַיֵּם בְּשֶׁבַח, וְדוֹרֵשׁ מֵאֲרַמִּי אוֹבֵד אָבִי, עַד שֶׁיִּגְמֹר כֹּל הַפָּרָשָׁה כֻלָּהּ:

(4) The attendants poured (literally: mixed) the second cup for the leader of the seder, and here the child asks their father the questions about the differences between Passover night and a regular night. And if the child does not have the intelligence to ask questions on their own, their father teaches them the questions. The mishna lists the questions: Why is this night different from all other nights? As on all other nights we eat leavened bread and matza as preferred; on this night all our bread is matza. As on all other nights we eat other vegetables; on this night we eat bitter herbs. The mishna continues its list of the questions. When the Temple was standing one would ask: As on all other nights we eat either roasted, stewed, or cooked meat, but on this night all the meat is the roasted meat of the Paschal lamb. The final question was asked even after the destruction of the Temple: As on all other nights we dip the vegetables in a liquid during the meal only once; however, on this night we dip twice. And according to the intelligence and the ability of the child, his father teaches them about the Exodus. When teaching his child about the Exodus he begins with the Jewish people’s disgrace and concludes with their glory. And he expounds from the passage: “An Aramean tried to destroy my father” (Deuteronomy 26:5), the declaration one recites when presenting his first fruits at the Temple, until he concludes explaining the entire section.

Context: This is from the Mishnah, Tractate Pesachim, which is about Passover. It is in Chapter 10, which is about how the Seder is supposed to go (as of 200 CE). When it says “Mix the cup”, it’s because wine back then was super-strong and had to be diluted.

What is different about this first iteration of Ma Nishtana?

Who said Ma Nishtana originally? What was the purpose of it? Was it mandatory?

The Mishnah could be read as saying that Ma Nishtana was originally a set of prompts for the leader to ask the child in order to start a discussion about leaving Egypt (per the Biblical mandate). How would things be different if we did it that way today?

Eating Chametz and Matzah Together?

(יא) וְזֹ֥את תּוֹרַ֖ת זֶ֣בַח הַשְּׁלָמִ֑ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר יַקְרִ֖יב לַה' (יב) אִ֣ם עַל־תּוֹדָה֮ יַקְרִיבֶנּוּ֒ וְהִקְרִ֣יב ׀ עַל־זֶ֣בַח הַתּוֹדָ֗ה חַלּ֤וֹת מַצּוֹת֙ בְּלוּלֹ֣ת בַּשֶּׁ֔מֶן וּרְקִיקֵ֥י מַצּ֖וֹת מְשֻׁחִ֣ים בַּשָּׁ֑מֶן וְסֹ֣לֶת מֻרְבֶּ֔כֶת חַלֹּ֖ת בְּלוּלֹ֥ת בַּשָּֽׁמֶן׃

(11) And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which one may offer unto the LORD. (12) If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and (leavened) cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour soaked.

Context: This is from the Biblical Book of Leviticus, where it is talking about the different types of sacrifices to be offered in the Tabernacle (Mishkan) and Temple.

During the time of the Temple, were they eating chametz and matzah together?

Given that the Mishnah is oral tradition, what does this tell us about how far back the Four Questions might go?

The Evolution of the Dipping Question

מָה נִשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכׇּל הַלֵּילוֹת שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין פַּעַם אֶחָת הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים מַתְקֵיף לַהּ רָבָא אַטּוּ כׇּל יוֹמָא לָא סַגִּיא דְּלָא מְטַבְּלָא חֲדָא זִימְנָא אֶלָּא אָמַר רָבָא הָכִי קָתָנֵי שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ חַיָּיבִין לְטַבֵּל אֲפִילּוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים

The mishna states that one of the questions is: Why is this night different from all other nights? As on all other nights we dip once; however, on this night we dip twice. Rava strongly objects to this statement of the mishna: Is that to say that on every other day there is no alternative but to dip once? Is there an obligation to dip at all on other days, as indicated by the wording of the mishna? Rather, Rava said that this is what the mishna is teaching: As on all other nights we are not obligated to dip even once; however, on this night we are obligated to dip twice.

מַתְקֵיף לַהּ רַב סָפְרָא חִיּוּבָא לְדַרְדְּקֵי אֶלָּא אָמַר רַב סָפְרָא הָכִי קָתָנֵי אֵין אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילּוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים

Rav Safra strongly objects to this explanation: Is it obligatory for the children? As previously mentioned, the reason one dips twice is to encourage the children to ask questions. How can this be called an obligation? Rather, Rav Safra said that this is what the mishna is teaching: We do not normally dip even once; however, on this night we dip twice. This wording is preferable, as it indicates the performance of an optional act.

Context: This is from Tractate Pesachim, trying to understand the text of Ma Nishtana in the Mishnah.

What is the original wording of the dipping question in the Mishnah, as repeated in our text?

How does that wording evolve in this text? What is the thinking that makes it change?

קָמַשְׁמַע לַן דַּאֲפִילּוּ חֲזֶרֶת בָּעֵינַן תְּרֵי טִיבּוּלֵי כִּי הֵיכִי דְּלֶיהְוֵי בֵּיהּ הֶיכֵּירָא לְתִינוֹקוֹת

Therefore, the mishna teaches us that regardless [of the vegetable used] one requires two dippings, so that there be a conspicuous distinction for the children.

Context: This comes from Tractate Pesachim. The Talmud is trying to figure out if chazeret, which is sort of like karpas and sort of like maror, still requires two dippings.

Why is it so important to have two dippings?

How does this connect to the Torah commandment to tell your child about leaving Egypt?

The Seder is the Jewish version of festival banquets common throughout the Greco-Roman world called symposia. These dinners began with a meal and then turned to conversation, often prompted by a rhetorical question posed regarding the food just consumed. Originally, the Seder meal was eaten first...In the second century, however, as a response to guests who "ate and ran" without staying to hear the Passover story, the meal was postponed until later in the evening...the Palestinian [Jews] did not ask why people reclined, since reclining took place at all fancy dinners in Roman society. The Babylonians added that one, since reclining was unusual where they lived. Similarly, dipping lettuce as an hors d'oeuvre was usual at Roman banquets...So Palestinians asked why [on all other nights] people dipped once, [but on this night] twice. In Babylonia, where no dipping was the rule, the question became, "Why [normally] do we never dip, whereas at the Seder, we dip twice?"

Lawrence Hoffman in My People's Passover Haggadah p 154-155

Context: Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman wrote an explanatory series about the siddur called My People’s Prayerbook, which brings together a wide range of commentaries about each prayer. My People’s Haggadah is an addition to that series.

What have you learned about the Seder and its development from this text?

(ה) רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הָיָה אוֹמֵר, כָּל שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר שְׁלֹשָׁה דְבָרִים אֵלּוּ בְּפֶסַח, לֹא יָצָא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ, וְאֵלּוּ הֵן, פֶּסַח, מַצָּה, וּמָרוֹר. פֶּסַח, עַל שׁוּם שֶׁפָּסַח הַמָּקוֹם עַל בָּתֵּי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְמִצְרַיִם. מַצָּה, עַל שׁוּם שֶׁנִּגְאֲלוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְמִצְרַיִם. מָרוֹר, עַל שׁוּם שֶׁמֵּרְרוּ הַמִּצְרִים אֶת חַיֵּי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְמִצְרָיִם. בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת עַצְמוֹ כְאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרַיִם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות יג), וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר, בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה ה' לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם. לְפִיכָךְ אֲנַחְנוּ חַיָּבִין לְהוֹדוֹת, לְהַלֵּל, לְשַׁבֵּחַ, לְפָאֵר, לְרוֹמֵם, לְהַדֵּר, לְבָרֵךְ, לְעַלֵּה, וּלְקַלֵּס, לְמִי שֶׁעָשָׂה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְלָנוּ אֶת כָּל הַנִּסִּים הָאֵלּוּ, הוֹצִיאָנוּ מֵעַבְדוּת לְחֵרוּת, מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה, וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב, וּמֵאֲפֵלָה לְאוֹר גָּדוֹל, וּמִשִּׁעְבּוּד לִגְאֻלָּה. וְנֹאמַר לְפָנָיו, הַלְלוּיָהּ:

(5) Rabban Gamliel would say: Anyone who did not say these three matters on Passover has not fulfilled his obligation: The Paschal lamb, matza, and bitter herbs. When one mentions these matters, he must elaborate and explain them: The Paschal lamb is brought because the Omnipresent passed over [pasaḥ] the houses of our forefathers in Egypt, as it is stated: “That you shall say: It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Paschal offering for the Lord passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when God smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses” (Exodus 12:27). Rabban Gamliel continues to explain: The reason for matza is because our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt, as it is stated: “And they baked the dough that they took out of Egypt as cakes of matzot, for it was not leavened, as they were thrust out of Egypt and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual” (Exodus 12:39). The reason for bitter herbs is because the Egyptians embittered our forefathers’ lives in Egypt, as it is stated: “And they embittered their lives with hard service, in mortar and in brick; in all manner of service in the field, all the service that they made them serve was with rigor” (Exodus 1:14). The tanna of the mishna further states: In each and every generation a person must view themselves as though they personally left Egypt, as it is stated: “And you shall tell your child on that day, saying: It is because of this which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:8). In every generation, each person must say: “This which the Lord did for me,” and not: This which the Lord did for my ancestors. The mishna continues with the text of the Haggadah. Therefore we are obligated to thank, praise, glorify, extol, exalt, honor, bless, revere, and laud [lekales] the One who performed for our forefathers and for us all these miracles: God took us out from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to joy, from mourning to a Festival, from darkness to a great light, and from enslavement to redemption. And we will say before God: Halleluya. At this point one recites the hallel that is said on all joyous days. Since one does not complete hallel at this point in the seder, the mishna asks:

Context: This is from the Mishnah, Tractate Pesachim, right after Ma Nishtana, and it continues the discussion about what should be in the Maggid section of the Haggadah.

What do you notice about the things that Rabban Gamliel prioritized and the things mentioned in Ma Nishtana?

So what’s up with the roasted meat?

(ג) דַּבְּר֗וּ אֶֽל־כָּל־עֲדַ֤ת יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר בֶּעָשֹׂ֖ר לַחֹ֣דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֑ה וְיִקְח֣וּ לָהֶ֗ם אִ֛ישׁ שֶׂ֥ה לְבֵית־אָבֹ֖ת שֶׂ֥ה לַבָּֽיִת׃ (ח) וְאָכְל֥וּ אֶת־הַבָּשָׂ֖ר בַּלַּ֣יְלָה הַזֶּ֑ה צְלִי־אֵ֣שׁ וּמַצּ֔וֹת עַל־מְרֹרִ֖ים יֹאכְלֻֽהוּ׃ (ט) אַל־תֹּאכְל֤וּ מִמֶּ֙נּוּ֙ נָ֔א וּבָשֵׁ֥ל מְבֻשָּׁ֖ל בַּמָּ֑יִם כִּ֣י אִם־צְלִי־אֵ֔שׁ...

(3) Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household;... (8) They shall eat the flesh that night, roast with fire and matzah; with bitter herbs they shall eat it. (9) Don't eat it raw, nor at all sodden with water, but roast with fire...

Context: This is from the Biblical Book of Exodus, describing the first Passover when the Jews huddled in their homes as the plague of death passed by outside.

What do you notice about the things eaten on that first Passover, compared to what Rabban Gamliel and the original Ma Nishtana emphasize?

(ז) וּבִשַּׁלְתָּ֙ וְאָ֣כַלְתָּ֔ בַּמָּק֕וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַ֛ר יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ בּ֑וֹ וּפָנִ֣יתָ בַבֹּ֔קֶר וְהָלַכְתָּ֖ לְאֹהָלֶֽיךָ׃
(7) You shall cook and eat it at the place that the LORD your God will choose; and in the morning you may start back on your journey home.

Context: This comes from the Biblical Book of Deuteronomy, where it is talking about the Passover Sacrifice. “The place that G-d chooses” would later be determined to be the Temple.

What does this tell us about where the Passover Sacrifice could be offered?

What does this mean for a time when that place wasn’t around?

(ג) הֵבִיאוּ לְפָנָיו, מְטַבֵּל בַּחֲזֶרֶת, עַד שֶׁמַּגִּיעַ לְפַרְפֶּרֶת הַפַּת. הֵבִיאוּ לְפָנָיו מַצָּה וַחֲזֶרֶת וַחֲרֹסֶת וּשְׁנֵי תַבְשִׁילִין, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין חֲרֹסֶת מִצְוָה. רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בְּרַבִּי צָדוֹק אוֹמֵר, מִצְוָה. וּבַמִּקְדָּשׁ הָיוּ מְבִיאִים לְפָנָיו גּוּפוֹ שֶׁל פָּסַח:

The attendants brought vegetables before the leader of the seder prior to the meal, if there were no other vegetables on the table. He dips the ḥazeret into water or vinegar, to taste some food before he reaches the dessert of the bread, i.e., the bitter herbs, which were eaten after the matza. They brought before him matza and ḥazeret and ḥaroset, and at least two cooked dishes in honor of the Festival. The tanna comments that this was the practice, although eating ḥaroset is not a mitzva but merely a custom. Rabbi Eliezer ben Tzadok says: Actually, it is a mitzva to eat ḥaroset. And in the period when the Temple stood and they offered the Paschal lamb, they brought before him the body of the Paschal lamb.

Context: This is from Mishnah Pesachim, right before the part where it talks about Ma Nishtana. Chazeret is romaine lettuce; some people have it on their Seder plates today (if there are 6 spots). Dipping in vinegar is something that some Sephardic Jews do today for karpas during the Seder.

What does this text tell us about when the Roast Meat question was relevant?

גמ׳ אמר רבא צריך שיאמר ואותנו הוציא משם אמר רבא מצה צריך להגביה ומרור צריך להגביה בשר אין צריך להגביה ולא עוד אלא שנראה כאוכל קדשים בחוץ

GEMARA: Rava said: When mentioning the exodus from Egypt one must say: And G-d took us out from there. Furthermore, Rava said: When one mentions matza in the list of the three matters one must recall during the seder, one must lift it for display before the assembled company. Likewise, when discussing bitter herbs, one must raise them. However, nowadays one need not raise the meat. And not only that, but it is prohibited to do so, for if one lifts the meat it appears as though they are eating sacrificial meat outside the Temple. An observer might think they are presenting it as the meat of a Paschal lamb, and it is prohibited by Torah law to slaughter a sheep as a Paschal lamb outside the Temple.

Context: This is from the Gemara of Pesachim, commenting on the Mishnah of Pesachim. This part is commenting on the text where Rabban Gamliel said that you had to mention 3 things or you didn’t really do it right (matzah, maror, and the Passover Sacrifice).

What does this text tell us about when the roast meat question was relevant?

רי”ף פסחים כה ע”ב

והשתא לא לימא בשר צלי דלית לן פיסחא.

Rif Pesachim 25b

Nowadays one is not to say (the question) about roasted meat since we don’t have a Pesach.

Context: R. Yitzchak Alfasi (the Rif) was a great halakhic authority who lived in N. Africa in the tenth century.

Why don’t we “have a Pesach”?

Zevach Pesach, Don Isaac Abravanel

In the Four Questions, which mentions some of the things that are 'different' on this night, we mention eating matzah, bitter herbs, dipping twice, and leaning. We don't mention the Passover offering which our ancestors ate on this night, nor do we mention the four cups of wine, nor the numerous times we wash our hands. Why do we ask specifically about matzah, maror, dipping, and leaning?

We make mention of those things that remind us that we are free, like royalty and the King's advisors and we make mention of other things that are the exact opposite, that remind us that we were slaves, humiliated and ashamed. "On all other nights we are not obligated to dip even once but tonight we dip twice." We do this because tonight we are treated like free people and people of the upper class, as is exemplified by the fact that we eat our food with all types of appetizers. Dipping is the practice of royalty. On the other hand, we can eat any type of bread or matzah we want but tonight we must eat matzah, the bread of affliction, which is the food of slaves and laborers as has been mentioned. Similarly, on all other nights we can eat whatever vegetables we want but tonight we must eat bitter herbs, and it must be raw so as to be a sign of slavery and great poverty. And yet we also lean, a sign of leisure and freedom. Eating while leaning and in a leisurely manner is a sign of honor. Matzah and maror are symbols of slavery, while dipping and leaning are symbols of freedom and leisure. We mention them all at the seder to draw attention to the contradictory nature of this evening. There are two symbols of each because of the principle that two witnesses are needed to testify in any manner. The Passover offering and the wine do not testify to these matters.

Context: Abravanel was an advisor to the Spanish monarchs of King Ferdiannd and Queen Isabella, and he tried to convince them not to expel the Jews in 1492. He was also a Biblical commentator and wrote Zevach Pesach about the Haggadah.

What is Abravanel’s explanation about why we don’t say the Roasted Meat question now?

(ב)... וּמוֹזְגִין הַכּוֹס הַשֵּׁנִי וְכָאן הַבֵּן שׁוֹאֵל. וְאוֹמֵר הַקּוֹרֵא מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִלּוּ פַּעַם אַחַת וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְּעָמִים. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מַצָּה. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בְּשַׂר צָלִי שָׁלוּק וּמְבֻשָּׁל וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ צָלִי. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מְרוֹרִים. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין בֵּין מְסֻבִּין וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין:

(ג) בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה אֵינוֹ אוֹמֵר וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ צָלִי שֶׁאֵין לָנוּ קָרְבָּן.

(2) ... We [then] pour the second cup; and here the child asks. And [then] the reader says, "What differentiates this night from all [other] nights? On all other nights we don't dip even once; but tonight twice. On all other nights we eat chametz and matzah; but tonight it is all matzah. On all other nights we eat meat roasted, boiled, or cooked; but tonight it is all roasted. On all other nights we eat other vegetables; but tonight it is all bitter herbs. On all other nights we eat whether sitting or reclining; but tonight we are all reclining."

(3) At this time, one does not say "tonight it is all roasted" - since we do not have a sacrifice.

Context: This is from Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah, which is his compilation of the rules in the Talmud with all the discussion taken out. Maimonides lived from 1135 to 1204 (“about half an hour” is the best way to remember that) in Spain and then Egypt where he was the Sultan’s physician. The reclining question was introduced by Saadia Gaon, the leader of the Babylonian (Iraqi) Jewish community in the late 900s.

This is the next major step on the evolution of Ma Nishtana. What does it show us?

(ב) הלילה הזה כולו צלי. בזמן שבית המקדש קיים היה הבן שואל כך:

This night, we only eat roasted meat. While the Second Temple stood, this is how the child was instructed to ask.

Context: The Bartenura is Ovadiah ben Avraham from Bartenura; his nickname is from the place has was born. He was the leader of the Jerusalem community in the 1500s and wrote a commentary on the Mishnah. And yes, Bartenura wines are named after him because they are sourced from all over Italy and he was born there ( Here, the Bartenura is commenting on the Mishnaic text that gave us the original Ma Nishtana.

Given what the Bartenura is saying, how far back do these questions seem to go before they were written down in the Mishnah?

(א) עַרְבֵי פְסָחִים סָמוּךְ לַמִּנְחָה, לֹא יֹאכַל אָדָם עַד שֶׁתֶּחְשָׁךְ. וַאֲפִלּוּ עָנִי שֶׁבְּיִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא יֹאכַל עַד שֶׁיָּסֵב. וְלֹא יִפְחֲתוּ לוֹ מֵאַרְבַּע כּוֹסוֹת שֶׁל יַיִן, וַאֲפִלּוּ מִן הַתַּמְחוּי:

A person may not eat until it gets dark on the eve of Pesach [from] close to [the time of] the afternoon offering. Even the poorest person in Israel may not eat [on the eve of Pesach] until reclining [at the night's Seder]. And [the communal officers] must give them no fewer than four cups of wine, and [they must do so] even [if they receive funds] from the charity plate.

Context: This is from the Mishnah, Tractate Pesachim. It kicks off Chapter 10, which tells us about how the Seder was supposed to go. It is followed by 10:2, which talks about the Kadesh step and Hillel and Shammai debating if you first “bless the wine” and then “bless the day” (Hillel’s position) or vice-versa (Hillel wins).

Coupling this with the Lawrence Hoffman text (reclining was a normal thing in the world of the Mishnah), why wasn’t reclining part of the original Ma Nishtana?

Speaking of reclining....

וַאֲפִילּוּ עָנִי שֶׁבְּיִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא יֹאכַל עַד שֶׁיָּסֵב אִיתְּמַר מַצָּה צָרִיךְ הֲסִיבָּה מָרוֹר אֵין צָרִיךְ הֲסִיבָּה יַיִן אִיתְּמַר מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרַב נַחְמָן צָרִיךְ הֲסִיבָּה וְאִיתְּמַר מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרַב נַחְמָן אֵין צָרִיךְ הֲסִיבָּה וְלָא פְּלִיגִי הָא בְּתַרְתֵּי כָּסֵי קַמָּאֵי הָא בְּתַרְתֵּי כָּסֵי בָּתְרָאֵי אָמְרִי לַהּ לְהַאי גִּיסָא וְאָמְרִי לַהּ לְהַאי גִּיסָא אָמְרִי לַהּ לְהַאי גִּיסָא תְּרֵי כָּסֵי קַמָּאֵי בָּעוּ הֲסִיבָּה דְּהַשְׁתָּא הוּא דְּקָא מַתְחֲלָא לַהּ חֵירוּת תְּרֵי כָּסֵי בָּתְרָאֵי לָא בָּעוּ הֲסִיבָּה מַאי דַּהֲוָה הֲוָה וְאָמְרִי לַהּ לְהַאי גִּיסָא אַדְּרַבָּה תְּרֵי כָּסֵי בָּתְרָאֵי בָּעוּ הֲסִיבָּה הָהִיא שַׁעְתָּא דְּקָא הָוְיָא חֵירוּת תְּרֵי כָּסֵי קַמָּאֵי לָא בָּעוּ הֲסִיבָּה דְּאַכַּתִּי עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ קָאָמַר הַשְׁתָּא דְּאִיתְּמַר הָכִי וְאִיתְּמַר הָכִי אִידֵּי וְאִידֵּי בָּעוּ הֲסִיבָּה פְּרַקְדָּן לָא שְׁמֵיהּ הֲסִיבָּה הֲסִיבַּת יָמִין לָא שְׁמַהּ הֲסִיבָּה וְלֹא עוֹד אֶלָּא שֶׁמָּא יַקְדִּים קָנֶה לְוֶושֶׁט וְיָבֹא לִידֵי סַכָּנָה

We learned in the mishna that even the poorest of Jews should not eat until they recline. It was stated that amora’im discussed the requirement to recline. Everyone agrees that matza requires reclining, i.e., one must recline when eating matza, and bitter herbs do not require reclining. With regard to wine, it was stated in the name of Rav Naḥman that wine requires reclining, and it was also stated in the name of Rav Naḥman that wine does not require reclining. The Gemara explains: And these two statements do not disagree with each other: This statement is referring to the first two cups, and that statement is referring to the last two cups. However, it was not clear which two cups require reclining according to Rav Naḥman. Some say the explanation in this manner and some say it in that manner. The Gemara elaborates: Some say it in this manner, that the first two cups require reclining, as it is now that freedom begins. Since reclining is a sign of freedom, while discussing the exodus from Egypt it is appropriate to drink while reclining. By contrast, the last two cups do not require reclining, because what was already was. In other words, by this point one has completed the discussion of the Exodus and has reached the latter stages of the seder. And some say it in that manner and claim that on the contrary, the last two cups require reclining, as it is at that time that there is freedom. However, the first two cups do not require reclining, as one still says: We were slaves. The Gemara concludes: Now that it was stated so, and it was stated so, i.e., there are two conflicting opinions and it cannot be proven which two cups require reclining, both these sets of cups and those require reclining. The Gemara continues to discuss the halakha of reclining. Lying on one’s back is not called reclining. Reclining to the right is not called reclining, as free men do not recline in this manner. People prefer to recline on their left and use their right hand to eat, whereas they find it more difficult to eat the other way. And not only that, but if one reclines to the right, perhaps the windpipe will precede the esophagus. The food will enter the windpipe, and one will come into danger of choking.

Context: This is from the Gemara of Pesachim, commenting on the Mishnah of Pesachim that mentions reclining (10:1).

When do we have to recline?

Why are we reclining to the left?

Variations on the order of the questions

אביו מלמדו מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות

שבכל הלילות אנו מטבילין פעם אחת והלילה הזה שתי פעמים

שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלין חמץ ומצה והלילה הזה כולו מצה

שבכל הלילות אוכלין בשר צלי שלוק ומבושל והלילה הזה כולו צלי...

One's father teaches them [to ask]: "Why is this night different from all [other] nights? On all [other] nights, we dip [vegetables] once, [but] on this night, we dip [vegetables] twice.

On all [other] nights, we eat chametz (leavened grain products) and matzah, [but] on this night, it is all matzah.

On all [other] nights, we eat meat roasted, stewed or boiled, [but] on this night, it is all roasted. "...

Context: This is from the Jerusalem Talmud, redacted around the year 400 CE in Tiberius. It is commenting on the Mishnah’s version of Ma Nishtana.

What do you notice about the order compared with the Mishnah (which was matzah, maror, meat, dipping)?

1.מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות

2.שבכל הלילות אין אנו מטבילין פעם אחת והלילה הזה שתי פעמים

3.שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלים חמץ ומצה

הלילה הזה כלו מצה

4.שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלים בשר צלי שלוק ומבשל הלילה הזה כלי צלי

from the "Dropsie Haggadah"

1. Why is this night different from all other nights?

2. On all other nights we don't dip things one time; this night, two times.

3. On all other nights we eat leaven and matzah; this night, only matzah.

4. On all other nights we eat meat roasted, grilled, and boiled; this night, only roasted.

Context: This is from the “Dropsie Haggadah” a 10th or 11th century Eretz Yisrael haggadah looted from the Cairo Genizah in 19th century. It’s another landmark on the evolution of Ma Nishtana.

How does this text compare to the Jerusalem Talmud’s version?

(א) מוזגים כוס שני ומסלקים את הקערה כאלו כבר אכלו כדי שיראו התינוקות וישאלו

(ב) מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה. מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת: שֶׁבְּכָל-הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אֲנַחְנוּ מְטַבְּלִין אֲפִילוּ פַּעַם אַחַת. וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים: שֶׁבְּכָל-הַלֵּילוֹת אֲנַחְנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ אוֺ מַצָּה. וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מַצָּה: שֶׁבְּכָל-הַלֵּילוֹת אֲנַחְנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת. וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר: שֶׁבְּכָל-הַלֵּילוֹת אֲנַחְנוּ אוֹכְלִין וְשׁוֺתִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין. וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין:

(1) We pour the second cup and remove the Seder plate as if we have finished the Seder so the children will wonder and ask.

(2) Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights we don’t even dip once, and on this night, twice.

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

On all other nights we eat many vegetables, and on this night, maror.

On all other nights we eat and drink sitting and reclining, and on this night we all recline.

Context: This is from a Sephardic Haggadah.

How does this version compare to the Jerusalem Talmud’s version?

How does it compare to the Ashkenazi version?

So why are questions so important, anyway?

Isidor I. Rabi, the Nobel laureate in physics who died Jan. 11 (1988), was once asked, ''Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like the other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?''

His answer has served as an inspiration for me as an educator, as a credo for my son during his schooling and should be framed on the walls of all the pedagogues, power brokers and politicians who purport to run our society.

The question was posed to Dr. Rabi by his friend and mine, Arthur Sackler, himself a multitalented genius, who, sadly, also passed away recently. Dr. Rabi's answer, as reported by Dr. Sackler, was profound: ''My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: 'So? Did you learn anything today?' But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. 'Izzy,' she would say, 'did you ask a good question today?' That difference - asking good questions -made me become a scientist!''

From a letter to the editor in the NYTimes by DONALD SHEFF New York, Jan. 12, 1988

Primo Levi (Holocaust survivor)

Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.

Questions are a Paradox

The key to Jewish exegesis is to assume that nothing is obvious. Questions are the great cultural paradox. They both destabilize and secure social norms. Nikita Kruschev, onetime leader of the Soviet Union, once explained why he hated Jews. He said, "They always ask why!"

Questions tend to democratize. Ease with questions conveys a fundamental trust in the goodwill and the good sense of others. Autocrats hate questions. We train children at the Passover seder to ask why, because tyrants are undone and liberty is won with a good question. It is for this reason that God loves it when we ask why.

Consequently, we celebrate challenging the Torah to make sense, and above all to be a defensible expression of Divine goodness...When we ask good questions, the Torah is given anew on Sinai at that very moment!

- Steven Greenberg, Wrestling with God and Men

Throwing Candy at Seder

At the beginning of seder night, Jerusalem's Professor Reuven Feuerstein, world renowned special needs educator, always warns the children around the table: "Tonight is seder night. This is an important occasion and we have much to read, so we cannot be bothered with all sorts of questions. If you ask any questions, I will be forced to punish you: I will throw lots and lots of candies at you. Understood?"

Unsurprisingly, the children spend the rest of the night asking many questions, stopping only to collect the candies thrown at them by the old professor...

Which of these 4 “question ideas” appeals to you the most? Why?

What about the tune?

Traditionally, Ma Nishtana is recited in the chant form called the major lern-steiger ("study mode" – a chant used for reciting lessons from the Talmud). One of the current tunes widely used for the Ma Nishtana was written by Ephraim Abileah in 1936 as part of his oratorio "Chag Ha-Cherut". - Wikipedia, “Ma Nishtana”

Context: Ephraim Abileah was born as Leo Nesviski in Russia in 1881. The son of a cantor, he co-founded The Society for Jewish Folk Music in St. Petersburg in 1908. A Zionist, He emigrated to the Land of Israel in 1922 and changed his name. He wrote a Passover oratorio to help move Jewish music away from the Diaspora and toward a Zionist Hebrew approach. His oratorio was only performed once, in Haifa in 1936, but the children’s chorus singing this tune left a lasting impression. In time, his tune supplanted the Yiddish version of Ashkenazi Jews and spread to many Sephardic, Mizrahi, and even Ugandan Jewish homes. (Http://;

With appreciation to Ori Bergman, Rachel Buckman, Lee Buckman, The Conservative Yeshiva, Seth Kadish, Rabbi Alan Litwack, Meyme Nakash, Josh Franklin, Phil Bressler, Robyn Fryer Bodzin, Amitai Adler, Sam Blumberg, Ephraim Diamond, Brett Lockspeiser, Nelly Altenburger, Rabbi Amy Loewenthal, Ari Elias-Bachrach, Sara Zober, Scott Bolton, Rona Shapiro, Russell Neiss,, Wikipedia, the URJ, and