Four Questions

The Four Questions are asked early in the seder, and they establish the context for the rest of the evening: the goal of the seder is to answer these questions. In some communities, the youngest person present recites the Four Questions. The Jewish Music Research Centre and reformjudaism.com examine the origins of the tunes for the Four Questions. The questions, in Hebrew, transliteration, and English, are as follows:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights we eat leavened products and matzah, and on this night only matzah.

On all other nights we eat all vegetables, and on this night only bitter herbs.

On all other nights, we don’t dip our food even once, and on this night we dip twice.

On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining, and on this night we only recline.

Ma nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilot?

Sheb’khol haleilot anu okhlin hametz umatzah;

halailah hazeh, kuloh matzah.

Sheb’khol haleilot anu okhlin sh’ar y’rakot; halailah hazeh, maror.

Sheb’khol haleilot ein anu matbilin afilu pa’am ehat; halailah hazeh, shtei f’amim.

Sheb’khol haleilot anu okhlin bein yoshvin uvein m’subin;

halailah hazeh, kulanu m’subin.

?מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה

הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מַצָּה –

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת

הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה (כֻּלּוֹ) מָרוֹר –

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין  הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין –

Di Fir Kashes, performed by Book of J

Theodore Bikel singing the Four Questions in Yiddish

Chabad style Four Questions

Tate lebn, ikh vil dir fregn di fir kashes. Far vos iz di nakht fun peysekh andersh fun ale nekht fun a gants yor?

  1. Far vos ale nakht fun a gants yor, az mir viln, esn mir khomets, un az mir viln, esn mir matse, ober di nakht fun peysekh esn mir nor matse? Hob ikh dir gefregt eyn kashe.

  2. Far vos ale nakht fun a gants yor, az mir viln, esn mir bitere grinsn, un az mir viln esn mir zise grinsn, ober di nakht fun peysekh esn mir nor bitere grinsn? Hob ikh dir gefregt tsvey kashes.

  3. Far vos ale nakht fun a gants yor, tunken mir eyn mol oykh nit ayn, ober di nakht fun peysekh tunken mir ayn tsvey mol --- eyn mol grins in zalts vaser, un dos tsveyte mol khreyn in kharoyses? Hob ikh dir gefregt dray kashes.

  4. Far vos ale nakht fun a gants yor az mir viln esn mir zitsndik, un az mir viln esn mir ongeshpart, ober di nakht fun peysekh esn mir ale ongeshpart?​

Itst hob ikh dir gefregt ale fir kashes. Entfer mir shoyn eyn teyrets far ale fir kashes.

 

Dear father, I want to ask you the four questions. How is this night different from all of the other nights of the year?

  1. Why on all other nights of the year do we eat bread or, if we prefer, matzo, but on the night of Passover, only matzo? I have asked you one question.

  2. Why on all other nights of the year, we eat bitter vegetables, or if we prefer, sweet vegetables, but on the night of Passover we eat only bitter vegetables? I have asked you two questions.

  3. Why on all other nights of the year we don’t dip even once, but on the night of Passover we dip twice—once in saltwater and the second time in horseradish in kharoyses? I have asked you three questions.

  4. Why on all other nights of the year, we eat sitting, or if we prefer, we eat reclining, but on the night of Passover we all eat reclining?

I have now asked all four questions. Please answer all four questions.

Woman singing Four Questions in Yiddish with English translation

A young child practicing the Four Questions in Yiddish

Kuanto fue demudada la noche la esta mas ke todas las noches?

Ke en todas las noches non nos entinyentes afilu vez una, i la noche la esta dos vezes?

Ke en todas las noches nos comientes levdo o sesenya i la noche la esta todo el sesenya?

Ke en todas las noches nos comientes resto de vedruras i la noche la esta lechugua?

Ke en todas las noches nos comientes i bevientes tanto asentados i tanto arescovdados i la noche la esta todos nos arescovdados?

Ma Nishtana in Ladino, Eliyahu Bonomo

08 Ma nishtana TurquiaEliyahu Bonomo
00:00 / 01:20

Ma Nishtana and Avadim Hayinu in Ladino, sung by Neil Sheff

Ma Nishtana and Avadim HayinuNeill Sheff
00:00 / 01:04

Sarajevo Haggadah, illuminated manuscript circa 1350 CE. Svjetlost edition, Ljubljana

Seder of a family from Rhodes. At 5:05 they sing the Four Questions in Ladino.

Egyptian Judeo-Arabic

מה נשתנה הלילה הזה

 

אש אל סבב אתגׅירת אל לילה האדי מן גמיע

אל ליאלי אן פׄי גמיע אל ליאלי ליס אחנה

מגׅמסין חתה ולו מרה ואחדה ואל לילה האדי

מרתין אן פׄי גמיע אל ליאלי אחנה ואכלין  כׄמיר או

פׄטיר ואל לילה האדי כולו פׄטיר אן פׄי גמיע אל

ליאלי אחנה ואכלין מן סאיר אל כׄוצׄאר ואל לילה

האדי מורר אן פׄי גמיע אל ליאלי אחנה ואכלין

ושארבין סווא קאעדין וסווא מתכיין ואל לילה

האדי כולנה מתכיין

Four Questions in Judeo-Arabic from Tunis

aš əl-maˁna əl-līla hādi mən kull əl-lyāli.

əldi fi ǧmīˁ əl-lyāli lēs iḥna nġətsu ḥtta maṛṛa wāḥda, u-l-līla hādi zōǧ maṛṛāt.

əldi fi ǧmīˁ əl-lyāli iḥna nāklu xmīr aw fṭīr, u-l-līla hādi kulhu fṭīr.

əldi fi ǧmīˁ əl-lyāli iḥna nāklu baqiyyat xḍāṛa, u-l-līla hādi mrār.

əldi fi ǧmīˁ əl-lyāli iḥna nāklu u-nəšrbu swa qāˁdin u-swa məttəkiyyin, u-l-līla hādi kulna məttəkiyyin.

Excerpted from La Haggada du Centenaire, Facsimile de la première Haggada de Pessah, imprimée à Tunis (1890), Jérusalem 1990. Introduction by Robert Attal.

Transliteration by Ofra Tirosh-Becker.

Beginning of seder in Hebrew - Greek tradition
00:00 / 05:01

A similar version by Allegra Matsa, Ioannina, Greece.

Τι διαφερ' τουτ' η νυχτα απ' ολεσ τσ' αλλισ νυχτισ?

Ti diapher tout ē nichta ap oles ts-allis nichtis?

What is different about this night from all other nights?

 

Ολεσ τσ' αλλισ νυχτισ τρωμι χαμετσ η ματσα; κι μον' τουτ' τ'νυχτα μονο ματσα.

Oles ts-allis nichtis trōmi chamets ē matsa? Ki mon tout t'nichta mono matsa.

On all other nights we eat chametz or matzah; on this night we only eat matzah.

 

Ολεσ τσ' αλλισ νυχτισ τρωμι ολα τα χορτα; κι μον' τουτ' τ'νυχτα τρωμι πικρα χορτα.

Oles ts-allis nichtis trōmi ola ta chorta? Ki mon tout t'nichta trōmi pikra chorta.

On all other nights we eat all kinds of greens; on this night we eat bitter herbs.

 

Ολεσ τσ' αλλισ νυχτισ δεν βουταμι καμια φορα; κι μον' τουτ' τ'νυχτα βουταμι δυο φορεσ.

Oles ts-allis nichtis den boutami kamia phora? Ki mon tout t'nichta boutami dio phores.

On all other nights we dip no times; on this night we dip twice.

 

Ολεσ τσ' αλλισ νυχτισ τρωμι καθισμεν'; κι μον' τουτ' ολοι ακουμπισμεν'.

Oles ts-allis nichtis trōmi kathismen'? Ki mon tout oloi akoumpismen.

On all other nights we eat sitting; on this night we eat while leaning.

 

© Spiegel-Stein Publishing. Used with permission. Authorized for personal use at family seders, but no other copying of publication permitted without express written consent of the copyright holders. Email info@WhyIsThisNight.com, website www.WhyIsThisNight.com.   

This article discusses the history, purpose, and order of the Four Questions in different Jewish communities, as well as the answers to the questions. You can also learn to ask "Why is this night different from all other nights?" in more than 20 languages!

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