“Tatte, ich vel ba dir fregen fir kashes…” (Father, I will
ask you four questions).
That is how I – and millions of other children – would
begin asking the traditional four questions at the annual
This year, for the first time in my life, I do not have
my father before me to ask him the questions. I will not
sit at his table, as I did for so many years, watching him
quietly smile as we would pose the four questions.
I may be 49 years old, a father myself, but I will deeply
miss asking my father the questions.
Memories run deep. Deep memories are etched in the fibers
of my being of Passovers bygone. Long nights, diverse conversations,
special delicacies, grandparents, uncles and aunts gathering
together – its all a vague fog now. But one thing
that stands out, never to be forgotten, are the four questions:
How we would go around the table, beginning with the youngest
first, and ask the questions.
I remember how excited I was to come home from school with
a special hand-made guide with pictures and all, outlining
the entire Seder. How my mother would turn over the house,
how we would be dressed up for the holiday with a new set
of clothes and enter our homes Passover night feeling clean
and fresh. But above all, I will forever remember how we,
as young children, would prepare ourselves weeks, months,
ahead to memorize the questions.
As we grew older, the enthusiasm perhaps waned a bit, but
the tradition continued. The older I grew the more I would
watch my father’s deep pride as he would listen to
his children asking him the questions – something
younger children simply don’t notice, or they have
more important things to do than to observe others…
The four questions remain a consistent barometer of our
own growth. We don’t always remember the chronology
of our personal evolution as we grow from child to adult;
only highlights thereof. But the Four Questions experience
remains a tangible gauge of life’s progression, year
after year, stage after stage: The enthusiasm and exuberance
of childhood; the awkwardness and silliness of adolescence;
the self-consciousness and rebelliousness (sometimes also
cynicism) of the teens – giggling your way through
the questions; the self-awareness and epiphanies of maturity
– sometimes taking yourself too seriously;
the spirituality of as we grow with experience; the feelings
of pride, and new-found appreciation of tradition as you
become a parent and see your own children asking you the
And now, the intro and retro spection of remembering and
missing my father – and all that he represents of
my history and the pillars of my life.
Yes, I will miss asking my father the questions.
And then, after we asked the questions, I will miss my
father’s resolute “itzt, kinderlech, vel ich
eich dertzeilen dem entfer. Avodim Ha’yinu…
(now, my children, I will tell you the answer, and begin
reciting the Haggadah: We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt…)
But the custom is that even orphans ask the questions with
the said preface, “father I will ask you…”
Imagine, a 90 year old man, with great grandchildren, and
many accomplishments to show for his life, sitting humbly
at the Seder table, whispering “tatte” –
father, remembering his father, his childhood years,
The Passover Seder turns us all into children.
Today I have many more than four questions to ask my father.
But I guess these four include them all (after all, they
correspond to the four cosmic worlds which encompass all
But this Passover, when we come to the Mah Nishtana,
I will sit quietly, contemplating how indeed this night,
this year, is different. I will remember my father, and
ask him the four questions.
Tatte, oy tatte, and all the tattes (fathers) in heaven
– your children never forget you. Thank you for being
there. Thank you for telling us the story .
And then I will conclude, as is the tradition: “Tatte,
ich hob ba dir gefregt fir kashyos. Itzt, bite, gib mir
a teretz” (Father, I have asked you four questions.
Now, please, give me an answer).
You see, no matter how old and mature we may be we are
all in need of a father.
 The entire Haggada is named for telling the
story. Haggada in Hebrew means “the telling,” “the
story” – based on the verse (Exodus 13:8) “V’higadito l’vincho,”
you shall tell your child. And the telling of the story
is generated through the child’s questions: “Ki Yoshalcho
bincho” – When your child will ask you (Exodus 13:14).