The (Fab) Fours of Pesach: THE FOUR QUESTIONS

"Arba Kushiyot" - "Four Difficulties" (four distinctions to make)

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"a 10th or 11th c Eretz Yisrael haggadah looted from the Cairo Genizah in 19th c.

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.

OBVIOUS DIFFICULTY: These aren't the Four Questions I know!

Difficulty A. What's the deal with the "roasted-only" meat?

(And why don't we ask this one anymore?)

(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...

(ה) לֹ֥א תוּכַ֖ל לִזְבֹּ֣חַ אֶת־הַפָּ֑סַח בְּאַחַ֣ד שְׁעָרֶ֔יךָ ...(ו) כִּ֠י אִֽם־אֶל־הַמָּק֞וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֨ר ה' אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙... שָׁ֛ם תִּזְבַּ֥ח אֶת־הַפֶּ֖סַח בָּעָ֑רֶב כְּב֣וֹא הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ מוֹעֵ֖ד צֵֽאתְךָ֥ מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃ (ז) וּבִשַּׁלְתָּ֙ וְאָ֣כַלְתָּ֔ בַּמָּק֕וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַ֛ר ה' אֱ-לֹהֶ֖יךָ בּ֑וֹ..

(5) Don't sacrifice the passover-offering within your gates...(6) but at the place which A-donai your G-d shall choose...Sacrifice the passover-offering there in the evening, at the going down of the sun, at the season that you came forth out of Egypt. (7) You shall boil it and eat it in the place which A-donai your G-d shall choose...

Etz Hayim, Deut 16:7 "you shall boil it" - reflects the practice of a populace settled in the promised land. (Compare this with Ex 12:9, which requires roasting, reflecting pastoral nomadic practice)

(ב)...ומוזגין הכוס השני וכאן הבן שואל. ואומר הקורא מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות...שבכל הלילות אנו אוכלין בשר צלי שלוק ומבושל והלילה הזה כולו צלי. ...(ג) בזמן הזה אינו אומר והלילה הזה כולו צלי שאין לנו קרבן.

Maimonides, circa 1170 CE

(2)...Mix the second cup, and here the son asks. Why is this night different from all other night?...On all other nights we eat meat roasted, boiled, or cooked, tonight only roasted... (3) In today's times we don't say "tonight only roasted" because we don't have a [pascal] sacrifice.

Difficulty B. Where is the question about reclining?

(א) ערבי פסחים סמוך למנחה, לא יאכל אדם עד שתחשך .ואפלו עני שבישראל לא יאכל עד שיסב.ולא יפחתו לו מארבעה כוסות של יין, ואפלו מן התמחוי .

(1) On the eve of Passover [from] close to [the time of] the afternoon offering, no one must eat until nightfall. Even the poorest person in Israel must not eat [on Passover eve] unless he reclines. They must give him no fewer than four cups of wine, even [if he receives relief] from the charity plate.

Proposed Solutions to Difficulties:

a) There were a number of acceptable variations on questions;

b) Perhaps there was no fixed formula of questions at all.

Proposed Solution a:

a) There were a number of acceptable variations on questions;

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

Proposed Solution b:

b) Perhaps there was no fixed formula of questions at all?

למה עוקרין את השולחן אמרי ר' ינאי כדי שיכירו תינוקות וישאלו אבה' הוה יתיב קמיה דרבה חזא דקא מדלי תכא מקמיה אמר להו עדיין לא קא אכלינן אתו קא מעקרי תכא מיקמן אמר ליה רבה פטרתן מלומר מה נשתנה

from BT Pesachim 115b

And why do we uproot the table?
Rabbi Yannai said: So that the children should see and ask.
Abaye was sitting before Rabba. He saw that he saw that they removed the tray [too quickly]. He said: Have we already eaten that you are removing the tray?! Rabba said: You have exempted us from saying "Mah Nishtana."