Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?

As the youngest in his family, TigerBlog was always the one who had to ask, or had the honor to ask, the Four Questions each Passover seder.

For those who are not familiar with the holidays of TigerBlog's people, the holiday of Passover began at sundown last night, beginning its eight-day run to remember the exodus of the Jews from enslavement in Egypt through the desert, led by Moses. The story is told well in the movie "The Ten Commandments," with Moses played by Charlton Heston.

As far as Jewish holidays go, Passover, to TigerBlog, is the third most important one of the year, behind only Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. 

Speaking of movies, TigerBlog also recently saw "Exodus," which is about the formation of the state of Israel after World War II. MotherBlog once made him and BrotherBlog watch the movie over three days as shown on channel 7 in New York City in what used to be called "The 4:30 Movie."

By coincidence, TigerBlog also saw "The Great Escape" that same week. In seeing both, which he's seen many times in his life, he couldn't help but smile thinking about how his mother loved Paul Newman from the first movie and Steve McQueen from the second.

As for the Four Questions, they are asked by the youngest in attendance to the person who is running the seder. The answers are then given as the ceremony unfolds, and in doing so the story of how the Jews came to be free after being slaves in Egypt is passed down from generation to generation.

TigerBlog's traditional Passover seder when he was a kid included his cousins Paul and Janet, as well as BrotherBlog. They're all older than he is, and so he was the one who got to ask the questions.

To this day, TB can remember one of the first times, or maybe the very first time, he had to ask.

The Four Questions began with "Why is this night different from all other nights?" It then asks the questions themselves, all beginning with those same words:
On all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread. Why on this night do we eat only unleavened bread?
On all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs. Why on this night do we eat only bitter herbs?
On all other nights, we don’t dip our food even once. On this night why do we we dip our food twice.
On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining. On this night why do we only recline?

TigerBlog, an inquisitive child to begin with, wondered why "Why is this night different from all other nights" didn't count as its own question, and before he asked the Four Questions, asked why it wasn't called the Five Questions.

The answer to the first question (or second) is that the Jews left Egypt in such a hurry that they were unable to wait for their bread to rise. For that reason, the holiday is commemorated by eating only unleavened bread, or matzoh. 

And in modern times, for the duration of the holiday, Jews are not to eat anything leavened.

TigerBlog remembers one men's basketball banquet in the Jadwin lobby late in the holiday when he was sitting with Howard Levy and his wife Riva. All three of them ate rolls that were on the table, and then all three looked at each other with horrified looks on their faces when they realized what they'd just done.

Passover will still be observed through this weekend, which is also Good Friday and Easter. TigerBlog once went to Easter services in Zurich (the one in Switzerland), where the entire mass was done in Latin. It was pretty fascinating.

The Ivy League doesn't stop for religious observances, with the possible exception of Christmas. TigerBlog has been to games on Yom Kippur (he fasted), Rosh Hashanah, Easter, through Ramadan and basically any other religious days.

He's seen Princeton athletes of all religions do what was necessary to be respectful of their holidays while still competing for their teams. In some cases, he's seen athletes who did not compete because of a certain holiday. He's even seen football players in both uniforms in a temple next to Brown Stadium for Yom Kippur services before a game.

There will be baseball, softball and men's tennis on Easter Sunday, with the baseball and softball games the second day of doubleheaders at Penn. Those are four big games on both sides, as Princeton is a game up on Penn in the divisional races in both.

Princeton, of course, is the defending Ivy champion in both sports.

In baseball, with 12 games to go, two games separate top from bottom in the Gehrig Division. In softball, with the same 12 games to go, one game separates the top three in the South Division, as Columbia is tied with Penn, a game back of the Tigers.

Hopefully the weather cooperates. The forecast for the week is outstanding.

Oh, and BrotherBlog checked in yesterday that he was too busy to be nostalgic, which is why he was in a hurry when TB called him to say he was in Brooklyn.

Does he remember "the Five Questions?"

1 comment:

Steven J. Feldman '68 said...

Nice, appropriate blog about the Holidays. Check the grammar in the first sentence of the 6th paragraph. The sentence needs to be reworded.