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What are the answers to the Four Questions?

What are the answers to the Four Questions?


The paragraph in the Haggadah which immediately follows the Four Questions contains the response to the four questions. A modicum of thought suffices to uncover the answers inherent in its words:

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd, our G‑d, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm....

Let's review the four questions and demonstrate how our transition from slavery to freedom which is discussed in this paragraph is the reason for all the "strange" practices referenced in the questions. Each one of these practices is symbolic of our slavery, freedom, or both:

1) On all nights we need not dip even once, on this night we do so twice!

Slavery: The salt water into which we dip the karpas (potato, onion, or other vegetable) represents the tears we cried while in Egypt. Similarly, the charoset (fruit-nut paste) into which the bitter herbs are dipped reminds us of the cement we used to create the bricks in Egypt.

Freedom: Dipping food is considered a luxury; a sign of freedom — as opposed to the poor (and enslaved) who eat "dry" and un-dipped foods.

2) On all nights we eat chametz or matzah, and on this night only matzah!

Slavery: Matzah was the bread of slaves and poor, it was cheap to produce and easy to make.

Freedom: Matzah also commemorates the fact that the bread did not have enough time to rise when the Jews hastily left Egypt.

3) On all nights we eat any kind of vegetables, and on this night maror!

Slavery: The maror (bitter herbs) reminds us of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.

4) On all nights we eat sitting upright or reclining, and on this night we all recline!

Freedom: We commemorate our freedom by reclining on cushions like royalty.

Click here for more on the Four Questions, and don't forget to visit our comprehensive Passover study section.

Have a Kosher and happy Passover!

Rabbi Dovid Zaklikowski,

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA April 15, 2014

Nu? Where are the question marks? I used this link to send to my niece to explain the four questions, and then realized they are not stated as questions. Oy, vay! Reply

Barbara Lee Indian WellsI February 20, 2014

I was also taught bitter herbs would should show dry your mouth was when you suffered being in the desert for 40 Years after crossing the red sea hardship that the Jews went through. Reply

Anonymous Ohio December 12, 2013

Trying to reply Stephen Weinstein: you eat like royalty all the time, so if we did the same think on Passover, what would you remember about the Exodus? Nothing. And if we eat leavened bread all the time, you would not remember about the unleavened bread, and the Seder's retelling would serve no purpose. Passover is the time to relive and retell the story of our Exodus from Egypt and slavery into Israel and freedom. Without the "forced" symbolism, the story would have falled into oblivion. People need symbolism and some rules to remember and maintain their identity. Reply

Chuck Hickman March 31, 2010

Slave or Free The brief answer to Johhny Cohen's question is that through Divine Intervention and Power you are now free. And you should always act as a free person, in great part to celebrate and honor the Power that made you free. You eat the foods of the holiday celebration to remember the history of enslavement and to recall the pain and suffering of that time that you no longer endure. And now by the Power of G*d you are free to eat or not to eat. It's now your choice. You aren't forced to eat bitter herbs, but you now do so by choice as a free person to remember those that didn't have a choice and Who it is that made you free. Reply

cherylbeasley taylor , michigan March 29, 2010

i don't understand the question, so i don't have an answer. Reply

Johnny Cohen March 25, 2010

Stephen's query re sitting free & eating slave foo What's the answer? Reply

Stephen Weinstein Camarillo, CA via November 18, 2007

Why sit free & eat slave food, & not vice versa? I already knew these answer, but what I do not understand is how it was decided which things to do like free persons and which things to do like slaves. For example, why not eat leavened bread, the food of royalty, and sit uncomfortably, like slaves? How would that be any less good than our practice of sitting like royalty and eating the food of slaves? Reply

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