The Four Questions

Now that Passover is just upon us it is time for me to do some blogging. We have been a bit behind in our Passover planning this year and it will be the smallest Sedarim that I can recall. The first night we will be ten for sure, with the possibility of another family bringing our total to 14. We will only need our regular dining room table. YAY! It certainly makes things easier. I also hope that with smaller sedarim we will be able to do a little more in terms of the actual Haggadah. In past years, we would have given everyone the same Haggadah and gone around the table reading the text. We would stop here or there to discuss a section or two, but for the most part it was just reading. This year, I think we will read some of the text, but pick a couple of sections each night to discuss in more detail. Perhaps I will give each participant a different Haggadah and they can use their text to add to our discussions.

I was recently learning a bit about the four questions and I wanted to share two things here. The first thing is not exactly about the questions per se but about the use of the number four in the Haggadah. With minor exception (the three Matzot, the three sections about the foods and the 15 steps of Dayeinu) the entire Haggadah is built on the number four. Four cups of wine, four questions, four children, four uses of Barukh in Barukh HaMakom, etc. The Vilna Gaon came up with the following explaination.

This is hinted at in Berakhot 54b, where we read that there are four people who are obligated to give thanks: one who has returned from a sea voyage; one who has returned for a caravan crossing the desert; one who has recovered from a serious illness; and one who has been freed from prison. Indeed, these four correspond to the experiences of the Jewish people in the Passover narrative. The Jewish people also left prison; passed through the sea; traveled across the desert; and, when they received the healing of the Torah at Sinai, were returned to health as if from a serious spiritual illness.

I have long been fascinated by how many “number fours” there are in the text, and I really like this explanation.

The second text is for all of my teacher friends. It is from a parody Haggadah that was written in Odessa in 1885 called Haggadah Lem’lamdim or the Haggadah of Teachers.

How does teaching differ from all other professions in the world?

All the other professions enrich, and their practitioners eat and drink and are happy all the days of the year. But teachers groan and sorrow even on this night.
In all other professions the workers do not dare to be brazen before their employers. But in teaching the boys and girls constantly disrupt, and yet all find the teachers to be guilty.
In all other professions there is peace. But among the teachers the opposite is true.
All professions can earn their livelihood with honor and receive their salary in full. But teachers acquire only a crust of bread and water, along with insults and abuses, and instead of a salary they receive hunger and famine.

Were they writing in the 1880s or the 2010s? Also note (for your own discussion) that they included boys and girls in their text (habanim v’habanot is in the Hebrew) and it shows that the girls were also in school with the boys!

Finally to end with something fun, if you have not already see this…

Enjoy!

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2 Responses to The Four Questions

  1. I don’t agree with your remarks about teachers. But I did appreciate learning from your blog.

  2. It’s not my words. I was just quoting a source.

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