|1. What number appears most frequently in the Haggadah?
The number 4 is a recurring theme in the Haggadah: 4 questions, 4 sons, 4 cups of wine. The 4 cups of wine correspond to the 4 terms of redemption that God promised the Jews in Egypt: "I shall take you out... rescue you... redeem you... and take you" (Exodus 6:6-7).
Rebbeinu Bechaye (14th century Spain) explains that these 4 terms correspond to the 4 increasing levels of freedom experienced by the Jews in Egypt:
1) the release from harsh labor
2) the actual Exodus, i.e. physical freedom
3) the splitting of the Red Sea, where the Egyptians drowned and the Jews experienced emotional freedom
4) the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, representing spiritual freedom
Read more at: "The Passover Paradox"
|2. The first time the Jews ate matzah was:
the night prior to leaving Egypt
It is true that the dough did not have time to rise when the Jews left Egypt in a hurry (Exodus 12:34), but the first matzah was eaten before leaving Egypt, at the Passover Seder (Exodus 12:8).
This Seder matzah was to be eaten "b'chipazon" -- with haste (Exodus 12:11). The kabbalists explain: Since the Jewish people would become the eternal nation, their moment of birth had to be ‘fast.' The matzah, baked quickly, symbolizes the speed that was an integral part of the Exodus experience.
This theme is discussed by the Maharal of Prague (Tifferet Yisrael 26). See more at: "Vanquishing Time"
[Actually, it is suggested by some commentators (Nachmanides Deut. 16:2 and Sforno Deut. 16:3) that the first time the Jews ate matzah was when they were slaves -- the Egyptian taskmaster fed it to them. (see Rabbi Y.S. Natanson - "Sho'al U'Mashiv" I 1:175)]
|3. The recipe for Charoset is:
all the above
Charoset is mixed with the bitter herbs (marror), and is to remind us of the mortar used for bricks during slavery. Over the years, many recipes have developed in Jewish communities worldwide, each one more delicious than the next.
Sample them all at: "Charoset Recipes"
|4. Of the Four Sons, which is regarded as the most problematic:
the son who doesn't know how to ask. In the Haggadah, this son is listed last, because he doesn't know and doesn't care. Apathy is one of the worst possible character traits. The opposite of love is not hate; it's apathy.
Why isn't the evil son placed last? And why is he listed second, right after the wise son? Because even though the evil son is fighting, at least he's engaged in discussion and you've got somebody to talk to. He's alert and thinking. If you can turn him around, you've got another wise son!
This lesson is born out through a fascinating Gematria (Jewish numerology): If you take an evil person (in Hebrew, rasha -- gematria 570) and as the Haggadah suggests, you subtract the rough, biting edge of "his teeth" (shinav -- 366), then you're left with 204, the Gematria of tzaddik -- a righteous person!
See more at: "Four Sons, Four Questions"
|5. The miracle of the plague of hail was:
The verse says there was "flaming fire amid the hail" (Exodus 9:24). Rashi describes this clear contradiction of nature as a double-miracle: Not only did the fire and ice exist simultaneously, but the fire shot downward.
On a deeper level, the fire-and-ice represents the idea that even natural adversaries can join together, when they share a common goal of serving God (Rashi quoting the Midrash).
|6. What important figure is mentioned only tangentially in the Haggadah:
Moses is mentioned only once in the Haggadah, where it says that "the people believed in God and Moses his servant." Moses is mentioned only in passing, and in the passive sense.
The main lesson of the Exodus is that there is only one power in the entire universe: God. Thus it is crucial to remember that Moses, who led the Exodus, was only a messenger of God. As the Haggadah says: “God brought us out of Egypt -- not through an angel or a messenger, as the verse declares (Exodus 12:12): ‘I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night’…”
God expects us to make an effort, to partner with Him in bringing about the redemption. But we should never think that it was our power that brought about the results. By nearly omitting Moses' name from the Haggadah, the Sages were making it clear that Moses indeed was no more than a messenger.
|7. What food may be used for Marror, the bitter herbs?
Romaine lettuce (chasa
) is actually the preferred food for Marror, since it is listed first in the Mishnah. (The lettuce must be cleaned carefully to remove any bugs.) Pure grated horseradish may also be used. However, "red horseradish" in jars bought from the stores should not be used, since it is a mixture of mostly beets with some horseradish.
At the Seder, many people mix the lettuce with some grated horseradish, to increase the bitterness. Then, the Marror is dipped into Charoset, a bricks-and-mortar mixture of fruits and nuts.
|8. Before Passover begins, we rid our homes of chametz by:
all the above
On the evening before Passover, we conduct a careful search of the home for chametz. It is done by candlelight and is a memorable experience for the whole family. Any remaining chametz is either burned the next morning, or is sold to a non-Jew for the week of Passover. The sale must be serious and legally binding; it should be done only through the assistance of a qualified rabbi. Any food that is sold must be put in a cabinet and taped shut.
Finally, we "nullify the chametz," declaring that any chametz which may inadvertently in our possession should be considered as mere "dust."
For more details, see "The Search for Chametz"
|9. How many Jews were living in Egypt, prior to the onset of the plagues?
Here's the math: 600,000 Jewish men, between the ages of 20-60, left Egypt at the Exodus. Add all the younger and older males for a total of 1.5 million. Adding the females doubles the total to 3 million.
Finally, Rashi (Exodus 13:18, citing the Midrash) says that only 20% of the Jews made it out of Egypt, the remainder having died in the plague of darkness. (Apparently those Jews were unwilling to cast their lot with the Jewish people.) If 3 million represents 20% of the Jews, then the total number of Jews living in Egypt, prior to the onset of the plagues, was 15 million.
|10. How much wine should be drunk at each of the Four Cups?
98 cc (3.3 ounces)
Everyone should have a wine cup that holds a revi'it -- a minimum of 98cc (3.3 oz.) according to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. (Some are more strict to use a cup containing 150cc, 5.1 oz. Some are more lenient and use 86cc, 2.9 oz.)
It is preferable to drink the entire cup of wine, for each of the Four Cups. One should at least drink a majority of the cup.
Jewish law defines an act of "drinking" as two swallows without pausing. This is the preferable way to consume the Four Cups. One should at least consume the wine within four minutes.
Someone who has difficulty drinking wine may use grape juice, but should add a little wine so that the taste of alcohol is detectable.
As an expression of freedom, we should lean to the left side while drinking the Four Cups of wine.
Learn more about the "Laws of the Seder"