Pesach: Four Questions for Life

March 17, 2021

On Passover eve, we all gather around the Seder table and turn our attention to the children’s recital of the Four Questions. These Questions are not just children’s play. They have deep meaning and relevance for every person’s life. The following pages contain a new and original interpretation for the ancient and beloved text.

This week’s lesson is dedicated by Rabbi Yossi & Chani Serebryanski in loving memory of his father Rabbi Aharon Serebryanski, the Rebbe’s representative to Australia and New Zealand. Yartzeit 9 Nissan.

The Four Questions

Mah Nishtanah is really a question about exile. We know that we are in the final exile. But why is it different? What is unique about this exile? Why will it turn out differently?

Each of the Four Questions represents a distinction between this exile and the previous ones.

Question One

Dipping represents purification. For some reason, previous exiles didn’t fully purify the Jewish people and they were sent into exile once again. But this exile will be the last, signifying full purification.

Question Two

Chametz represents arrogance. Clearly, the Jewish people didn’t cleanse themselves of arrogance during their previous exiles. But somehow, when this exile ends, we will be “totally matzah.”

Question Three

Vegetables represent physical pleasure. In previous exiles, the Jewish people didn’t succeed in transcending materialism. But somehow, when this exile ends, we will be “totally maror,” fully capable of transcending the physical pleasures.

Question Four

Reclining represents genuine rest. Previous redemptions were followed by further exiles, but somehow, our exile will be followed by the final and complete redemption.

This all raises the question: Mah Nishtanah? This exile doesn’t seem very different. Why should we assume that it will end differently?

The answer is written in the Haggadah with the words “Avadim Hayinu.” Egypt seemed to be an impenetrable exile, but when G-d determined that the time had arrived, he took us out with a strong hand an upraised arm. And so it will be for us.



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