What's With the Fours?

This number appears over and over in the Passover Haggadah.

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Jewish identity, indeed, is dependent on mothers. According to halakhah [Jewish law], or Jewish religious tradition, while a Jew's tribal genealogy follows the paternal line, whether a child is a member of the Jewish people or not depends entirely on the status of his or her mother.

It's only speculation, but might the recurrent numerical theme in our exquisite Haggadah, employed each year to instill Jewish identity, be reminding us of that? After all, the book has its own number-decoder built right in, toward its end, where most good books' keys and indexes are found. It's a little hazy once it's reached, after four cups of wine, but it's unmistakably there: "Echad Mi Yodea" or "Who Knows One?"--the song that provides Jewish associations with numbers.

"Who knows four?"

If you don't, you can look it up.

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Rabbi Avi Shafran

Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.