Photo Credit: Jewish Press

More than once, the Lubavitcher Rebbe asked a father in the days preceding Pesach, “Have you prepared the answer to the Four Questions?”

What message was the Rebbe trying to convey with this question?


Our children practice the Four Questions for weeks. Students in all grades – even preschool – learn all the details of the Four Questions. They count down the days until they will finally ask them. It’s a whole big “to-do.”

At the end, many of them say, “Tateh, ich hob ba dir gefregt fir kashyos; yetzt biteh gib mir a teretz,” which means “Daddy, I’ve asked you four questions; now please give me an answer.” But what happens then?

In some homes, the father doesn’t necessarily answer all the questions. Instead, he opens the Haggadah and begins reciting, “Avadim hayinu le’pharo beMitzrayim – We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt…” He doesn’t really explain to his children, though, how these words answer their questions.

We have a Torah commandment of “vehigadeto levincha – you must tell your children [all about the Exodus from Egypt].” The Four Questions were composed as a prelude for the father to fulfill his biblical obligation. But what often happens is that a big to-do surrounds the Four Questions while the answers are not given the attention they deserve.

In Avadim Hayinu, we say, “If Almighty G-d would have not taken our forefathers out of Egypt, then we, our children, and children’s children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. What is the deeper meaning of these words? And why do they appear right at the beginning of the father’s official answer to the Four Questions?

If we use a little poetic license, the Four Questions in America really boil down to the following:

“Dad, I’m not sure how to ask this, but I really don’t understand what this celebration is all about. Three thousand years ago, our forefathers went out of Egypt. Okay, fine. So because of that, for eight days I can’t eat what I want? I have to eat this crunchy bread and wine that I don’t enjoy? For the Exodus that took place thousands of years ago, it makes sense to do something symbolic and recite a prayer or two. But for eight days and nights?!”

The father has to provide a reply that will answer this question. So he says, “Listen, my son. It’s not only our forefathers who went out of Egypt – you went out of Egypt. For if not for those miracles in Egypt, my son, you wouldn’t be driving my Porsche. You would be riding a camel under the hot sun in the deserts of Egypt!

“Therefore, it’s not only that your great ancestors were freed. You are celebrating your freedom because you could have been in Egypt today. Pesach is not only the Yom Tov of your great-great-great-grandfather. It’s your Yom Tov!

That’s why we say in the Haggadah, “V’osonu hotzi mishom – He took us out of there.” We departed Mitzrayim!

“Since it’s your celebration, my son, it’s not enough to do something symbolic. You are celebrating your own exodus from Egypt and Hashem gives you the ingredients to celebrate, to give thanks, and to make that great connection between Him and you.”


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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. He can be reached at [email protected].