The Four Questions

In keeping with my Passover themed blog posts, I thought I’d talk a little about the four questions this week. Each year at our Passover seders, we look forward to hearing the sweet voices of our children as they sing the four questions. It’s really a rite of passage in a Jewish family – being old enough to sing them, then being older and not having to any more. I have a video of my oldest singing them when he was three. It’s fun to watch it and remember how little he was. But, what are these questions? Why do we ask them? What purpose do they hold? Let’s take a look.

Why is this night different from all other nights? The four questions start with an overarching question. How is this night different? For our kids, this is the big WHY. Why do we sit through this big, long symbolic meal? What does this have to do with me? The questions that follow give the bulk of the answer to that bigger question.

1. On all other nights, we eat either bread or matzoh. Why tonight do we eat only matzoh?

Most haggadot call matzoh the “bread of our affliction.” It sounds ominous, and I guess it should. When we were slaves in Egypt, things were pretty crappy. When G-d liberated us, and Pharoah finally said we could leave, there wasn’t much time to spare. So our bread didn’t have time to rise – hence, matzoh. But it is more than just bread that reminds us of hard times. We are also supposed to eat it with joy. Joy that we were liberated.

2. On all other nights, we eat all kinds of herbs. Why tonight do we eat only bitter herbs?

This holiday highlights the suffering that the Israelites felt while they were slaves in Egypt. But with each mention of suffering, we remember to celebrate the fact that we are no longer slaves. When we taste that hot, sinus-clearing, horseradish, we feel relief that we don’t have to suffer through that daily. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of what things used to be like, so we can appreciate what we have now.

3. On all other nights, we do not dip our foods even once. Why tonight do we dip twice?

The greens (and egg) that we eat, symbolize spring and life and hope. Dipping them in salt water the first time, reminds us of the salty tears shed by the Israelites in Egypt. Dipping them the second time, helps us to remember the fear we felt when G-d sent the Angel of Death in the last plague. Many Egyptians lost children in that plague. Even though they were our oppressors, we must remember they were also parents who lost loved ones because of Pharoah’s stubbornness.

4.On all other nights, we eat either sitting up or reclining. Why tonight do we all recline?

I like this one. How many of you incorporate reclining at your Seder table. Most of us don’t sit on the floor as they did in biblical times, but it can still be fun to have a throw pillow to sit on. This question is one of complete celebration. We recline because we can. We recline because for so many years things were really tough and now we can relax and celebrate our freedom.

As you celebrate Passover and listen to those little (and big) voices sing the four questions, think about what they mean to you. How is this Passover Seder different from all other Passover Seders? What can you do to bring some additional meaning to your table?


+++++++++ Announcements +++++++++

Wednesday, April 13 – 6:30pm – Hebrew School

Friday and Saturday, April 15-16 – Teen OR retreat to South Lake Tahoe. We will leave promptly at 4pm on Friday. See your email for details.

There is no formal 2/3 grade parent education this month. Instead, plan to stay this Sunday to participate in the class Seder celebrations.

Our last Family Shabbat for the year will take place on May 6th. This will be Teacher Appreciation Shabbat. I hope you will all mark your calendars and plan to be here to celebrate our incredible teachers.

Passover at TOR

April 17 – School-wide Passover Celebration – Each class will participate in their own Seder during religious school. Each of you should have received an email from your teacher with a list of items needed for the Seder. In addition, we are encouraging parents to join their children in participating in the Seder. We hope you will spend the morning with us!

April 23 at 6:30pm- Second Night Passover Seder at the Sacramento Marriott in Rancho Cordova. Call the temple office for details. (916)988-4100

Join a family for Passover – if your family doesn’t already have plans to participate in a Passover Seder this year, please let me know. Additionally, if you have room at your Seder table for a family to join you, please contact me. We want everyone to have the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful holiday of freedom and redemption!

New Teachers Needed – Are you interested in teaching at Temple Or Rishon? We are looking for some new teachers to join our ranks next year. If you love spending time with kids and have the skills to impart some wisdom to our young people, please contact Mary!

+++++++++ Religious School Update +++++++++


In keeping with our Passover preparation themes, our PreK/Kinder class made some very neat mosaic Seder plates and wine cups. They’ve learned the story and know all about the plagues. Ask them to tell you about Pharoah and Moses and why we celebrate Passover each year!

1st Grade

Efrat’s class is also learning more about Passover. This week, they reviewed the story, made an afikoman cover, created a card game about the 10 plagues and learned about the letter Shin. Next week, PreK/Kinder will be joining the 1st grade class for their Passover Seder celebration. We hope you will join them!

2nd/3rd Grade

Our 2nd and 3rd grade class worked on their understanding of the four questions this week. The kids worked individually and in groups to create posters with information about the four questions. Ask them to recite the questions (they might still need some prompting) and see if they can answer them as well.

4th/5th Grade

Our 4th and 5th grade students have been working through the Passover Seder and creating their own presentations of each Seder element. Ask them why we dip karpas twice during the Seder, and why we eat matzoh. What is their favorite part of the Seder? Challenge your student to come up with something new to enhance your Seder table this year.

6th Grade

Our 6th grade class studied the Modeh Ani this week. Why do we sing this prayer when we start our day? They also discussed why Passover is such an important Jewish Holiday. They talked about the different items on the Seder plate and discussed what they want to do to participate in the class Seder that will be held next week. The follow up questions for this week are:

  1. What does the word Seder mean? (Answer: It means order and refers to the proper sequence of each prayer in the Hagaddah.)
  2. Why do we recline during Seder? (Answer: to relax and appreciate our freedom)
  3. In the book Night, why did Eliezer refuse to let his father sit down and rest? (Answer: He felt it would give into his father’s death.)

7th Grade

The seventh grade class continues to work with Avi on their Hebrew comprehension and fluency. This week, Art brought the class into the sanctuary and the practiced reading from the Torah scrolls.

We would love to see all parents at school this next Sunday as we celebrate Passover with classroom Seders. I hope to see you all at TOR!