I just read through 40 or so Haggadot and, while I have a provisional (common sense) answer, no one seems to address this, so I appreciate any "real" sourced answers.

The fourth question (current day, Ashkenazic minhag, as opposed to the Sephardic order and the no longer used question about roasted meat) asks

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין, - הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין!

(text from here)

My rough translation/understanding is

That on all (other) nights WE eat "between" (meaning using either position) sitting and reclining; on this night "we all" recline.

I am trying to understand the exact meaning of "kulanu" "we all" in the explanatory second part of the question.

Is the child saying that "we all" means that we do ALL of our eating in a reclining position? Like the question on dipping, he cannot know what will be required throughout the meal in the future -- he should be asking only on what he has seen. However, he has seen one instance of dipping and sees the other ingredients for dipping and can infer that there will be another dipping (this is the answer I read in a Haggadah). But the child has not seen much eating (for Karpas we specifically eat less than the shiur so that doesn't seem like a substantial thing to infer from), only drinking so he can't infer that we will lean for ALL the eating.

And, if he did infer that, he would be wrong. We don't recline when eating maror!

Is the child saying that "we all" means that everyone reclines? The language conspicuously changes from "anu" (we) to "kulanu" (we all) so it might follow that this is about including all the people at the seder. This would make sense because he, the child, would have just reclined even in the presence of his father so that would seem unusual. But a student does NOT recline in the presence of his Rebbi so we don't "all" recline.

It is easy (and common sense) to assume that the child would not know this intricacy of halacha, but the child already has shown that he knows laws of maror and dipping before they happen so it seems wrong to assume that he didn't learn the laws of heseiba as well.

To what does the "kulanu" refer and why is it presented as an absolute when it doesn't seem to be?

Any insight would be appreciated.

  • 2
    There's a fourth question?
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 15:00
  • Why do we eat matzah, why do we eat maror, why do we dip, why do we recline. If you include the framing question (ma nishtana), there are actually five questions. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 15:09
  • 2
    Not everyone eats less than a kezayis for karpas.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 15:28
  • There are all kinds of things bothering me about this question, but the main issue I have is the premise. In short, the "question" is about the general "we", which I think is pretty obvious. In addition, about the last paragraph, it should also be obvious that it's a standard text, and that the kid learned it in school.
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 16:04
  • 1
    Also, kudos for looking through 40 Haggadoth to find your answer on your own! (Although, I think the fact that you haven't found an answer kind of bolsters my initial reaction - there might be nothing here to comment on.)
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 16:38

3 Answers 3


Kulanu, as the others have said, means that everyone leans. How to square that with the fact that not everyone is required (or even allowed in some cases) to lean is asked by the Natai Gavriel. In a nutshell, his answer is leaning is about showing the autonomy and freedom of liberation, and that we all participate in the action of showing the liberation of leaning, whether or not an individual person leans in that situation. The non-leaner's actions are part of the demonstration of freedom of the group which contains someone who's presence prevents the leaning.

So we are all participating in the demonstration of freedom that leaning represents.

  • 2
    I don't understand this at all, but it is sourced and addresses the question
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 16:55
  • 1
    I just read through the source -- while I find the logic and conclusion strange (a representative heseiba), it answers my question, so thank you.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 17:22

The term "anachnu" means "we" and "kulanu" means "all of us" (as it has the word "kol" meaning "all" or "complete" / "everything".)

While these 2 terms may seem to have the same meaning, there is an important difference. "Kulanu" implies unity. For example, in parshat Miketz, when Yoseph accuses teh brothers of being spies, Yehuda says, "Kulanu b'nai ish echod nachnu" (Notice, than in the same sentence, Yehuda uses BOTH the terms "kulanu" and "nachnu" - (same as "anachnu"). Yehuda says, "All of us (as a unit) are the sons of one man.

Another nuance in the hagadah's phrase "kulanu mesubin" is that the term "mesubin" is a noun, not a verb. Thus the translation of "kulanu mesubin" means that "All of us (a unit - whether you want to consider that unit the family members at the Seder or exten it to all of B'nai Yisra'el) - all of us are recliners (the noun form).

  • 1
    I thought of mesubin as an predicate adjective. But even so, to make the blanket statement when there are those who do not recline seems wrong.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 13:58
  • The term "kulanu" implies a generality, not a "guarantee". Like in Megillat Esther, when Esther explains to Mordechai, "Kol avdei ha'am yod'im..." - Every person knows that you can't see the king unless he extends his sceptre... undoubtably, there were some that didn't know this rule - young kids, babies, etc. It's like the term "people say" - you don't know who the "people" are...
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 16:31
  • then there should have been no argument against "kulo maror" because it is a generality, but the problem was that it flew in the face of the existence of karpas. If it weren't exclusive then no one would have argued with its use.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 17:12
  • Many Haggadot omit the term "kulo" for marror. I assume that the reason for eliminating is in accordance with what you statd, that karpas is another vegatble that is used. Of course, without the word "kulo" for marror the 2nd question seems to be an oxymoron, no?
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 20:06

כֻּלָּנוּ means "we all": he's asking about the fact that all the people recline. (Source: my knowledge of Hebrew.) That answers most of your question, and I hope others can answer the rest.

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