A Four-Questions Dialogue

Found In: Parts of the Seder

Tags: four questions

By Lynn Hazan and Dr. Rachel Berg | Ritual Component

Reader:

 

In the Mishnah, our earliest rabbinic record of the Passover Seder, we read that a son is to ask his father: Why is this night different from all other nights? The child is to ask, yet, if unable, then the parent is to instruct him how to do so. In other words, the purposes of the Seder, to teach and to tell, are clearly set down.

All:

 

Each of us is the inquiring child and each of us is the parent, instructed to relate. And so we ask the four questions, which have become standard in our haggadah, and we add our own, pointing out more of the differences of this Seder.

Reader:

 

As we ask, we recognize what it takes to ask a question: confidence, knowledge, awareness and freedom. And we not only answer, but we commit ourselves. We will teach others how to ask, and encourage them to ask.

Mah nish ta-nah ha-lai-lah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-lei-lot

Reader:

 

Why is this night different from all other nights? Why, on this night, and at this place and time in history, do we congregate as Jewish women to celebrate a women's seder?

All:

 

To re-experience the journey from slavery to freedom, from helplessness to empowerment, from men's voices to women's voices, from exclusion to inclusion.

Reader:

 

Why, in cities across the world, do we gather two weeks before Passover?

All:

 

To liberate us from the concerns of the kitchen so we may reconnect with our Jewish sisters everywhere, some who have been separated from us for generations.

Sheh-be-chol halei-lot a-nu och-leen chametz u-matzah, ha-lai-lah ha-zeh ku-lo ma-tzah.

Reader:

 

On all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread; on this night why only unleavened bread? What does Matzah mean to us this night?

All:

 

Imagine setting forth on a journey, leaving behind all you've known. What to take? The bread we take has no time to rise - this is our matzoh, our bread of affliction.

Sheh-be-chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin she-are ye-ra-kot; ha-lai-la ha-zeh ma-ror.

Reader:

 

On all other nights we eat herbs of any kind; on this night why do we eat only bitter herbs? What is the maror of which we partake tonight?

All:

 

On this night when we recall the bitterness of our ancestors' lives in Egypt, we reflect on the bitterness of women's exclusion from full participation in Jewish life and on the barriers that until only recently kept our sisters (and brothers) in the former Soviet Union from learning and practicing Judaism.

Sheh-be-chol ha-lei-lot ein a-nu mat-bi-lin a-fi-lu pa-am e-chat; ha-lei-la ha-zeh sh-tei f-a-mim.

Reader:

 

On all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once, why on this night do we dip them twice? Why do we dip the herbs not once, but twice?

All:

 

On this night, we dip "to tell" - perhaps for the first time, in some towns of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, or for the fortieth time, or more, for women in Western countries. We dip to retell the story of our liberation, a story relevant for each age and each community. We dip into "her-story," connecting with ancestral mothers and important women in our lives, forging our personal link between past and future generations.

Sheh-be-chol ha-lei-lot a-nu och-lin bein yosh-vin u-vein me-su-bin; ha-lai-lah ha-zeh ku-la-nu me-su-been.

Reader:

 

On all other nights we eat our meals in any manner: on this night why do we sit around the table together in a reclining position? On this night, we do we recline?

All:

 

Reclining shows our freedom. We are free to focus our hearts and minds, to savor and discover and listen this evening as we revel in our connections across the globe.

From Project Kesher's Second Global Women's Pre-Passover Seder, March 24, 1996. Used with Permission.