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    Why four questions? – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why are there four questions on Seder night and not some other number?

    Mah Nishtanah, from the Sarajevo Haggadah, 1350

    A. There is a version with five and one with three, but four prevailed because it is the characteristic Pesach number.

    Four also allows us to divide the questions into two groups – two about slavery (the matzah and maror questions) and two about freedom (the “dipping” and “leaning” questions).

    It is typical of the Seder to oscillate between the sour and the sweet, the agony and the ecstasy. When the child asks the four questions, he or she probably fails to notice the paradox of a people that is free and still carries the scars of suffering.

    There should be a question somewhere that says, “So are we free, or aren’t we?”

    If there were such a question, we could answer it in two ways: 1. “Freedom can be celebrated only when we recall what life was like without it”, and 2. “Suffering can be borne only when we have faith that one day it will end”.

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