These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[Alumni Guest Post] Passover: What’s it all 4?

Posted on March 26, 2013 by The Director of Digital Media

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Chaya Kaplan-Lester (Year '97-'98)
shares this beautiful Passover insight:

Why are there so many 4’s in the seder?

First, dimensionality. You take a point, it has no dimension to it. You add another point and you have a line, the dimension of length. You add a 3rd point and you get length and height. But it’s not until you add that 4th point that you length, height, and finally width. 3 dimensions! And that is the world we live in. It’s not a flat world. Only with that 4th point do we get space as we know it. A vessel to receive.

So on our most basic level – we have a Place to exist, breathe, walk around, because of 4ness. That’s why it’s called the 4 corners of the earth.

8972417Another reason I think were drawn to 4’s: stability. We all know you can’t make a table with 2 legs. 3 legs will make a table of sorts, yet 4 legs will make a much sturdier structure. 4 has more bulk, heaviness, plantedness. So 4s adds to our sense of safety, groundedness.

A square is organized, orderly. And that is the power of the seder, really. Seder literally means order. It touches on our deep deep need for order and stability in this world.

In the seder ritual, the 4s really are poured on thick. The 4 questions, 4 sons, 4 cups of wine. Not only do we see a plethora of 4s, but then, so many of the sources draw parallels and correspondences between the different groups of 4. The 4 cups correspond to the 4 mentions of redemption and to the 4 exiles and the 4 worlds, etc…

So not only do we have this question of why 4’s…but also a question of ‘Why so many correspondences’? Drawing parallels gives us a sense of cognitive Order. It makes sense of an otherwise senseless world. Correspondences create SEDER.

Sarah Yehudit Schneider shares a teaching from Rav Ginsburg who says that Kabbalah is the “science of correspondences”. Kabbalah is usually understood to mean ‘to receive’. But this meaning only appears in later prophets/biblical writings. In the Torah itself, its 3 letter root means “to parallel or correspond.” It refers to the corresponding loops on the Tabernacle’s curtains. (Exodus 26.5)

Kabbalah is all about making correspondences. Making deep sense of all that is.

So the fours that fill the seder create a wonderful experience of:





All of these elements create a structure, the paradoxical structure that allows us to feel free.

4s usher in our freedom.