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Thought for the Day: The Answer to the Four Questions -- Rabban Gamliel +

Imagine planning a trip to Disney Land with the family.  Telling you kids all about how fun it is, telling them about the rides you used to enjoy most when you went there with your family.  How special and excited you felt when you were finally old enough to go on the Matterhorn and your dad took just you.  Then you pack up the car with food, all pile in, drive to the Disney Land, pay for parking.... then make a U-turn and head back home.  Now imagine crying children, an angry wife, and years of counselling.

That's basically the scenario when you don't answer the four questions at the seder.  Just reading Rabban Gamliel's three answers without explaining what you just answered is not much better.  Moreover, Rabban Gamliel only has three things to explain!  What's the answer to the fourth question... and why don't we need that to fulfill our obligation?  Let's give it a whirl.

Rabban Gamliel starts with the korban pesach.  Now, if you are paying attention, you'll notice that not one of the four questions asked about the korban pesach.  That is not an oversight; rather, it is due to our sins which have caused us to remain with a Beis HaMikdash these two plus millennia.  We don't have a Beis HaMikdash, so we don't have a korban pesach at the table, so the child to whom we are directing our energies is not going to ask about it.  The rishonim therefore substituted the question about reclining.  None the less, the idea represented by the korban pesach is integral and essential to the lessons we must transmit.  The lesson from the korban pesach is that HaShem gives us special and personal attention.  An Mitzri could be sitting at the table with a Jew on our last night in Mitzrayim; and at midnight the Mitzri (if he were a first born) would die.  HaShem went though Mitzrayim very precisely targeting the Mitzrim and very pointedly passing over the Jews.

Matzah is because of the rush with which we left Mitzrayim.  (Important: Matzah does not represent slavery or affliction... the breaking of the matzah and then eating broken pieces of food is what represents slavery and affliction.)  The matzah, as discussed before, represents that cause and effect are a fiction.  HaShem orchestrates the events -- big and small -- that make the desired outcome appear as natural consequences.  The Exodus from Mitzrayim took place in no time; it was a grand demonstration that HaShem runs the world.

Note that the first two items are were eaten before the events that actualized their meaning occurred.  The korban pesach had to be eaten before midnight; appointed time for the first born Mitzriim to die.  The exodus did not occur until the next morning; that's when the bread was baked with no time.  Maror represents the embitterment of our lives.  In order to properly appreciate what HaShem did for us, we have to acknowledge what our lives would have been without His intervention.  HaShem didn't just improve our lot; we went from an existence of restriction -- physical, mental, and spiritual -- to a life with out boundaries.

So now we have explained Matzah, Maror, Pesach... but that leaves dipping and reclining.  The answer to that is the next words in the hagadah:
Therefore it is our duty to thank and praise, pay tribute and glorify, exalt and honor, bless and acclaim the One who performed all these miracles for our ancestors and for us.
We recline and dip (twice!) as an expression of our freedom.  That is, we show to HaShem that we appreciate the gift so much, that we don't let a minute go by without taking full advantage of the life He has given us.  Why did Rabban Gamliel not tell us that we need to mention that to fulfill our obligation?  That's not something to be explained, that's something to be felt.  The whole seder has been a build up to this moment.  All the preparation, all the background, and now the concrete symbols before us; everything has led us to this moment.

You need to feel and live the gratitude, not explain it.


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