The Order of the Questions
According to the Chabad tradition, the four questions at the Passover seder are asked in the following order:
- On all nights we need not dip even once, and on this night we do so twice.
- On all nights we eat chametz (leavened bread) or matza, and on this night only matza.
- On all nights we eat any kind of vegetables, and on this night maror (bitter herbs).
- On all nights we eat sitting upright or reclining, and on this night we all recline.
What is the reason for this particular sequence?
We cannot say that the questions are ordered according to importance, for if they were, the obligation to eat matza on Passover - a mitzva explicitly stated in the Torah - would have been first. By extension, eating maror, which in our times is a mitzva decreed by our Rabbis, would have been second. Reclining, symbolic of freedom, would have been third, and the question as to why we dip twice would have been last, as it is only a custom.
Are the questions arranged according to the chronological progression of the seder? Again, the answer is no, for the first thing we do is to make Kiddush, which is then drunk in a reclining position. If the questions were asked sequentially, "reclining" would have preceded "dipping," for the vegetable is dipped in salt water only after Kiddush.
"Dipping," however, is the first question that is asked by the Jewish child. The "dipping" is what initially attracts his attention and catches his eye, despite the fact that it is not a mitzva explicitly mentioned in the Torah nor one even decreed by our Rabbis. The child's curiosity is aroused, precisely by a Jewish custom.
There are some who contend that every effort must be made to observe the Torah's mitzvot no matter how difficult the circumstances, even demonstrating self-sacrifice when necessary. But in their opinion, Jewish customs are not so important. If it is hard to keep a custom they are willing to forgo it, and downplay its significance.
The order of the questions at the Pesach seder, however, teaches that one must never belittle the importance of a minhag Yisrael, a Jewish custom. It is precisely the custom that is mentioned first in the Hagada. The custom stimulates the child to go on to ask the other questions.
It is specifically our Jewish customs that distinguish us from our non-Jewish surroundings. For it is only when a Jew observes these customs that his uniqueness is apparent, as we say, "You have chosen us from among the nations." "A Jewish custom is Torah!"
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 1