Pesach, or Passover, began Monday evening and for eight days will commemorate the Hebrews' escape from enslavement in Egypt.
It is tradition for the youngest person gathered for a Seder meal, the ritual feast at the beginning of the festival, to ask four questions to unpack the biblical story in Exodus.
"Seder" comes from a word that means "order," so I hope I get this right.
Specifically, there are actually five questions, four questions with an introductory query:
"Why is this night different from all other nights?"
Mah nishtanah ha-lahylah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-layloht, mi-kol ha-layloht?
"Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either bread or matzoh, but on this night we eat only matzoh?"
She-b'khol ha-layloht anu okhlin chameytz u-matzah, chameytz u-matzah. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, kooloh matzah?
"Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat only bitter herbs?"
She-b'khol ha-layloht anu okhlin sh'ar y'rakot, sh'ar y'rakot. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, maror?
"Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once, but on this night we dip them twice?"
She-b'khol ha-layloht ayn anu mat'bilin afilu pa'am echat, afilu pa'am echat. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, sh'tay p'amim?
"Why is it that on all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we eat in a reclining position?"
She-b'khol ha-layloht anu okhlin bayn yosh'bin u'vayn m'soobin, bayn yosh'bin u'vayn m'soobin. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, koolanu m'soobin?
Each answer recounts a part of the Exodus story, perhaps just a little differently than you may remember Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner portraying it in "Ten Commandments."
The Haggadah focuses less on the drama between odd brothers Moses and Rameses and more on the people's suffering under Pharoah's rule and their great escape. "Exodus" means "departure."
As the story goes, Pharaoh released the Hebrew people after a run of plagues had hardened his heart but eventually broke it with the death of his firstborn son. (This harkens to a punitive and anti-breeding method of his father, Seti, during his time as Pharaoh.)
The people left in such a hurry that they had no time to bake their bread. They grabbed their raw dough and ran, letting it bake on rocks in the desert sun into hard crackers.
Voila, matzoh. First answer.
The Seder plate traditionally includes specific foods: including bitter herbs or vegetables; parsley dipped in salt water; a mixture of apples, nuts and wine; a lamb shank; and an egg.
Eating horseradish hot enough to burn your eyes reminds you that living under an oppressive rule really, really sucks. The second answer recalls Pharaoh's cruelty to the Hebrew people when they were living in Egypt.
The third answer is all about hard labor and again relates to the Seder plate foods. Double-dipping is about relentless tasks, charoset symbolizes the mortar slaves used to build Egypt's great structures, the water is salty like the bitter tears that streamed down faces.
But hope is entering the picture here. The bright green sprig of parsley reminds the faithful that spring is here and new life will begin again.
Jewish celebrants recline to eat, the fourth answer, to be comfortable and to claim their freedom from their slavery.
The Haggadah is meant to encourage children's curiosity about their faith and their people's history.
May it do the same for you.