Arts and Culture

Rabbi Shmully Litvin hands out pages to a group of kids gathered at Keneseth Israel synagogue in Louisville.

On those pages are four questions written in Hebrew.

“The first question is: Why do we eat matzo tonight?” Litvin said, addressing the kids. 

Rabbi Shmully Litvin teaches a group of young people gathered at Keneseth Israel synagogue in Louisville on April 13, 2022 how to make matzo.Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Rabbi Shmully Litvin teaches a group of young people gathered at Keneseth Israel synagogue in Louisville on April 13, 2022 how to make matzo.

Jews eat matzo, the crunchy flatbread, during Passover, or Pesach, to remember how their ancestors didn’t have time to let the dough rise before fleeing Egypt.

Passover begins Friday at sundown, and Jewish families will gather for Seder, the holiday’s ceremonious meal. 

A key part of the Seder is telling the Passover story, about the Jewish people’s Exodus from Egypt. The Four Questions, or Mah Nishtanah, begins that telling, asking why this night is different from all other nights. 

This week, WFPL News explores the sounds and melodic rituals of the spring holiday season. For Passover, we look at the tradition of The Four Questions, which is often sung.

From matzo, a young Seder guest will ask: “On all other nights, we eat all vegetables. Why, on this night, maror, or bitter herbs?

“A little more intense,” Litven says of the question as the bitter herbs are symbolic of the bitterness of oppression.

Question number three: “Sheb’chol haleilot ein anu matbilin afilu pa’am echat; halailah hazeh, sh’tei f’amim,” they all sing, asking why some foods are dipped into others on Pesach.

The final question: Why, on this night, do we sit reclining in our seats?

Litvin says the holiday is about gratitude and giving thanks for freedom. But questioning is also an important aspect of Judaism as it “allows us to continue to beautify our experience with G-d.”

“Questions are a part of our identity because they continue to hone and refine our relationship with ourselves among each other as Jews, and ourselves with G-d.”

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.