Wherever Jews have lived, they have asked the Four Questions at Passover in their native language.
In their book and accompanying CD, “300 Ways to Ask the Four Questions” Murray Spiegel and Rickey Stein offer the Four Questions in 300 languages – well actually 374 languages in their new second edition — helping readers to create a more multi-cultural Seder.
Spiegel will lead a Passover workshop at Temple Beth El in Springfield on Wednesday, March 30 the temple’s weekly Lunch and Learn program at noon. The program is open to the public.
Spiegel, a speech technology researcher, from Northern N.J., and his co-author, Rickey Stein, a pharmacist by profession, began working on their book 39 years ago.
Back then, a friend who was planning his Seder, had asked Stein, who was very interested in Spanish culture, to translate the four questions into Spanish. As the years went on, Stein began adding new languages to the mix at each of his family’s annual Seders as a way of adding an educational component to the Seder for his kids.
Spiegel on the other hand, had become known for his elaborate and unusual Seders over the years. “I challenge myself to have a different seder every single year,” he said.
His Seders have included turning his home into a Bedouin tent; a jumbo jet taking the Israelites on a “Flight to Freedom;” and an Egyptian tomb. His Seders have even been filmed for PBS.
One year a friend asked Spiegel to record him doing the Four Questions as somebody famous – Donald Duck asking the Four Questions in Hebrew.
“We always say, ‘Who knew Donald Duck would be so fluent in Hebrew?’ So that is what got me started in doing Four Questions stuff.”
A pivotal point came when Spiegel’s company newspaper had a story about an Orthodox Jew who was translating a book of Jonah into “Klingon,” the “language” of the Star Trek alien race.
“So I said to him, “I am doing this thing on the Four Questions, would you mind translating them into Klingon?’ And he said, ‘Sure, I’ll come up with something.’” They eventually recorded the Four Questions into Klingon.
At the time, Spiegel happened to sing in a choir with the Klingon translator’s mother, and while talking about her son’s work translating the Four Questions, another person in the choir – Rickey Stein – overheard the conversation and piped in that he too had been working on translating the Four Questions into other languages.
“We were both in the same choir…we were the only two people on earth doing this and…we decided to combine our resources.”
The first edition of the book came out in 2007 and the two just published their second edition in February, adding 40 new additional languages. The authors have contributors from more than 100 countries numbering 850 people,” Spiegel said.
Besides its translations, “300 Ways to Ask the Four Questions” includes Seder puzzles and games, and suggestions for new ways to experience the Four Questions and the entire Seder.
Spiegel said that the workshop at Temple Beth El will be both “scholarly and fun. Many people say that from the promotions they thought it is for little kids. But while kids like it too, it is also for adults and has a a lot of interesting information.”
For more information on this program and Beth El’s Lunch and Learn, call Beth El at (413) 733-4149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org