Blog posts about the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries and their author Rabbi Ilene Schneider

Archive for March, 2013


Do I share Aviva’s pre-Pesach cleaning frenzy? Read my latest guest blog on Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare site to learn more!



Some people get “brilliant” ideas when in the twilight area between falling asleep and waking up, or between sleeping and awakening. They are often forgotten – or reevaluated as inane – when the person is fully awake. For some reason, many of mine pop up while I’m in the shower. It doesn’t mean that they really are brilliant, but at least I’m less apt to forget them.

This morning, I began to think about the Four Questions. I’ve no idea why. It’s been decades since I’ve been the youngest at a Seder and “required” to recite them.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Passover Seder ritual, one of the centerpieces is the recitation by the youngest of the Four Questions. They are designed to involve the children in the Seder and as an introduction to the rest of the Seder, although they are never directly answered.

1. Why is this night different from all other nights? Why on all other nights do we eat any kind of bread, but tonight we eat only matzah?

2. Why on all other nights do we eat any kind of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?

3. Why on all other nights do we not dip [the vegetables into salt water], but on this night, we dip twice?

4. Why on all other nights do we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night, we recline?

Just like the Hagaddah, I’m not going to answer them. The Questions (and answers) are not what I was thinking about while soaping up. It was the language of the Questions that interested me.

When I was the youngest, I asked the Four Questions in English, until I learned how to read Hebrew. Then I would say the recite the Questions in Hebrew and my younger cousin did them in English. When he started Hebrew school, he took over the recitation and I was allowed to stay in the other room with the overflow relatives and escape to the basement rec room as soon as possible to watch TV.

In my husband’s family, it was traditional for the youngest of each generation, no matter how old, to recite the Four Questions. My father-in-law and his twin brother were the youngest of five, and continued to ask the Questions for years. We still ask my father-in-law to say them – in Yiddish.

And here’s what I was thinking about this morning: why did he learn the Questions in Yiddish, not in Hebrew? A few thoughts, which may or may not be accurate:

Yiddish was the lingua franca of Eastern European Jews for centuries. Hebrew was used only for study and prayer. Even most of the Hagaddah (the book with the order – which is what the Hebrew word “Seder” means – of the ritual meal) is written in Aramaic (with the notable exception of the Four Questions), the language of the Talmud, not in Hebrew. My father-in-law’s generation, even those born in the US, knew at least some Yiddish. By reciting the Questions in Yiddish, he and his cohorts could understand what they were saying. Those of my generation, who did go to Hebrew School and learned how to read Hebrew, did not necessarily (or usually) understand it, so we were reciting essentially meaningless words. But mine was also the first generation to receive Jewish educations after the establishment of the State of Israel, and the renewal of Hebrew as a spoken, modern language. Today, the Yiddish would be as incomprehensible to most Jewish kids as the Aramaic and Hebrew were to my friends and me – and to my father-in-law.

Even though I wrote a book about Yiddish slang and expressions, I don’t speak Yiddish. I can understand it, though, to some extent. And in Yiddish the Four Questions is translated as “Di Fir Kashes” – which has the implication of “conundrum,” or “difficulty.” Even though “kashe” can be – and often is – used for question, the Yiddish word for question is “frege,” and the child, on introducing his (in “those” days, it was always “his”) recitation would begin with “Tate, ich vil bei dir fregen di fir kashes” – “Daddy, I am going to ask you the four questions.” I wonder if the wording is to avoid using “frege” twice in the same sentence (in English, the words are “ask” and “question”) or if the word is to indicate that these queries are not idle or frivolous but worthy of serious consideration.

I have no intention of answering my own perhaps idle or frivoulous thoughts, but offer them to you for serious consideration. And whoever asks the questions at your Seder in whatever language, I wish all my Jewish friends a Zissen Pesach (in Yiddish, a sweet Passover).


1. Thanks to feature writer Sally Friedman for another great article, this one about Passover preparations (& my books!) in the Burlington County Times.

2. Marilyn Meredith (who guest blogged on my site on March 8 as F. M. Meredith) and I are featured on


A nice review by Dawn Roberto:

Another 4.5 star review, this one on Night Owl Reviews:


Want to know how I avoid (and plan to avoid) the “Cabot Cove Sydrome” and other pitfalls of writing a book series? Check out my guest blog for Oak Tree Press at


I am very pleased today to introduce you to Marilyn Meredith, the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. As F.M. Meredith, she is on a blog tour to promote her newest book, DANGEROUS IMPULSES, the ninth in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series ( Why the different names? Keep reading for her answer. And then keep reading to find out how you can win the chance to have a character named after you in a future book.

Why I Use a Pen Name

When I wrote the first book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series (about 20 years ago) many female authors who were writing mysteries with male protagonists were using their initials with their last name. I guessed and also heard a couple of these authors speak, and the reason was so that male readers would read their books.

A good enough reason for me to use F. M. Meredith, rather than Marilyn Meredith, right? All was fine until the first publisher decided to pluck my photo off my webpage and put it on the back cover. That totally blew my subterfuge. By this time, the publisher had picked up the second book also written by F.M.—and stuck the same photo on the back cover. Me at LCC Monterey

I figured, what the heck, I might as well continue to use F. M. Meredith for the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. Besides, when I make an appearance anywhere, people don’t expect me to be a man.

Actually, it’s worked out fine. For my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, I’m Marilyn Meredith. Since that one is totally different, the story always told from a single female viewpoint, using Marilyn works.

The brand for the Rocky Bluff P.D. series is totally different. These crime novels are told from multiple points of view—some male, some female. The series has ongoing characters whose personal lives are featured as well as their efforts in solving whatever crimes are going on. And because my police officer son-in-law reminded me, there are always many crimes happening, not just one at a time.

Dangerous Impulses In Dangerous Impulses, an attractive new-hire captivates Officer Gordon Butler, Officer Felix Zachary’s wife Wendy is befuddled by her new baby, Ryan and Barbara Strickland receive unsettling news about her pregnancy, while the bloody murder of a mother and her son and an unidentified drug that sickens teenaged partiers jolts the Rocky Bluff P.D.

How has using the name F. M. Meredith worked out for me? There are some drawbacks, such as when I’m promoting a book in the series, I have to make sure to point out that it is written by F. M. Meredith. Otherwise, after all this time, most of my followers know that I’m F. M. Meredith aka as Marilyn Meredith.


The person who comments on the most blog posts on this tour may have a character named after him or her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel or choose a book from the previous titles in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series in either paper or for Kindle.

Rocky Bluff P.D. Series:

Though each book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series is written as a stand-alone, I know there are people who like to read a series in order. From the beginning to the end:

Final Respects
Bad Tidings
Fringe Benefits
Smell of Death
No Sanctuary
An Axe to Grind
Angel Lost
No Bells
Dangerous Impulses

F. M. Meredith’s Bio:
F.M. is also known as Marilyn Meredith, the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. She first became interested in writing about law enforcement when she lived in a neighborhood filled with police officers and their families. The interest was fanned when her daughter married a police officer and the tradition has continued with a grandson and grandson-in-law who are deputies. She’s also serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers Association, and has many friends in different law enforcement fields. For twenty plus years, she and her husband lived in a small beach community located in Southern California much like the fictional Rocky Bluff. She is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Epic, and Mystery Writers of America.

And I’m on Facebook and Twitter as MarilynMeredith

Tomorrow you can find me here:


Thanks to Davida Chazan for a terrific review of UNLEAVENED DEAD at: