Four Questions

Four Questions(English, pl.); Fir Kashes (Yiddish); Mah Nishtanah (Hebrew) - The Four Questions are asked during the Pesach (Passover) seder. The answers to these explain the meaning and the symbols of the holiday. During the seder, the Four Questions are traditionally asked in Hebrew or English by the youngest person at the table that is able to do so. Much of the seder is designed to fulfill the biblical obligation to tell the story to one's children, and many of the customs that have developed around the Four Questions are designed to pique a child's curiosity in order to hold their attention. The leader of the seder answers each question by guiding the guests through the Haggadah, which tells the story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt. The questions are introduced with the query, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”and are as follows: 1) On all other nights we eat bread or matzah. Why on this night do we eat only matzah?  2) On all other nights we eat many vegetables. Why on this night do we eat bitter herbs? 3) On all other nights we do not dip our food. Why on this night do we dip twice (in salt water)? 4) On all other nights why do we eat sitting upright or reclining. Why tonight do we recline? Come to our Folkshul  Seder and hear the explanation for each of the Four Questions.


kvetch (Yiddish) may be used as a noun (a kvetch) one who nags or complains in an insistent whiney fashion; or a verb (to kvetch)to express complaints, discontent, displeasure, or unhappiness. My sister kvetches all day long. She drives me crazy!

Tu B’Shvat

WOW! WORD OF THE WEEK Tu B’Shvat: Literally means “the fifteenth of the month of Shvat,” corresponding to February; however this year it is celebrated on January 26. The holiday does not appear in the Torah, Bible or Talmud. Because of its secular nature, the rabbis treated it as a minor holiday. It was not until the Zionist movement in the late 19th century that Tu B’Shvat was revived. It was then renovated to celebrating the planting of forests in Israel, in keeping with the efforts of Jewish pioneers to develop the land. In Israel, tree-planting remains the most prevalent observance of this holiday. In the U.S., with the rise of environmental movements, it has become known as the Jewish Earth Day. We can use Tu B’Shvat to raise our environmental consciousness; organize and educate others to support clean energy and independence; recycle and preserve our natural resources and oppose deforestation, climate change and pollution. For an excellent story about the destruction of trees, consider The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss. Have a sustainable Jewish Earth Year, Tu B’shvat!


Chanukah/Hanukkah/Kanukah  The Festival of Lights” or “The Feast of Dedication” is celebrated for 8 days (usually in Dec.) with candle lighting, dreydl playing and the eating of latkes and doughnuts. It commemorates the story of the victory of the Maccabees over the Greek Syrian king Antiochus in 165 BCE. Judah Maccabee, known as Judah the hammer, led the Jewish people in recapturing their temple from Syrian occupying forces, allowing Jews to practice their religion again. The uprising was started by Judah's father, Mattathias, against Antiochus IV, the Syrian ruler of what is now part of Israel. Judah continued the revolt after Mattathias' death, eventually retaking the desecrated Jerusalem temple. After restoring and dedicating it, Judas and those assembled in Israel, decided the event should be remembered annually "with joy and gladness for eight days."


Shalom:(שָׁלוֹם) (Sephardic/Israeli Hebrew); Sholem, Shoilem, Shulem) Ashkenazi Hebrew/Yiddish; a Hebrew word meaning peace, completeness, and welfare and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye. As it does in English, it can refer to either peace between two entities, or to the well-being, welfare or safety of an individual or a group of individuals.   

L’Shanah Tovah– (Hebrew)

A Good and Sweet New Year”-  the traditional greeting Jews give to each other on Rosh Hashanah.  Jews around the world will enjoy a festive meal, including fruit and honey, signifying hope for a sweet new year and a circular challah representing the cycle of life and a new beginning. Rosh Hashanah begins the period of self-examination and culminates 10 days later on Yom Kippur - when we ask ourselves to reflect on our behavior and our relationships.

Kol Nidre

Kol Nidre: this Aramaic song, whose unforgettable melody ushers in the holiday of Yom Kippur, allows Jews to take back promises that could not be fulfilled or were made under force. It performs the psychological function of allowing Jews to clear their conscience of promises of a personal nature that could not be kept. In the historical sense, it was created in the Middle Ages to permit Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity to return to the faith of their ancestors.

Many Jews look forward to hearing the Kol Nidre ceremony each and every Yom Kippur.

Hachnasat Orchim, Hebrew

Hachnasat Orchim, Hebrew-- welcoming guests; the special mitzvah of hospitality, especially to a stranger.  On Sukkot, we try to be mindful of keeping our tent doors open to all and embracing our new families so they feel at home with us.

eyns, tsvey, dray, fir, finef, zeks, zibn, akht, nayn, tsen, Yiddish, numbers one through ten.

eyns, tsvey, dray, fir, finef, zeks, zibn, akht, nayn, tsen, Yiddish, numbers one through ten.

Answer these questions with the correct number, in Yiddish: How many days in the week? How many fingers on each hand? How many fingers on both hands? Say your phone number in Yiddish? Can you find the Yiddish word for zero?