Four Children: Behind the Text

Rabbi Yechiel Hoffman

כְּנֶגֶד אַרְבָּעָה בָנִים דִּבְּרָה תּוֹרָה. אֶחָד חָכָם, וְאֶחָד רָשָׁע, וְאֶחָד תָּם, וְאֶחָד שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל.

The Torah speaks of four children: One is wise, one is wicked, one is simple and one does not know how to ask.

חָכָם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? "מַה הָעֵדוֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם?"

וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמָר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: "אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן."

The wise one, what does he say? "What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which the L-rd, our G-d, has commanded you?" You, in turn, shall instruct him in the laws of Pesach, [up to] `one is not to eat any dessert after the Pesach-lamb.'

רָשָׁע מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? "מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת לָכֶם?"

לָכֶם - וְלֹא לוֹ. וּלְפִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל כָּפַר בְּעִקָּר. וְאַף אַתָּה הַקְהֵה אֶת שִנָּיו וֶאֱמֹר לוֹ: "בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יי לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם." לִי - וְלֹא לוֹ. אִילּוּ הָיָה שָׁם, לֹא הָיָה נִגְאָל.

The wicked one, what does he say? "What is this service to you?!" He says `to you,' but not to him! By thus excluding himself from the community he has denied the foundations of our faith. You, therefore, blunt his teeth and say to him: "It is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt"; `for me' - but not for him! If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!"

תָּם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? "מַה זֹּאת?"

וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו:" בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ יי מִמִּצְרָיִם, מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים."

The simple son, what does he say? "What is this?" Thus you shall say to him: "With a strong hand the L-rd took us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage."

וְשֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל –

אַתְּ פְּתַח לוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר, "בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יי לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם."

As for the one who does not know how to ask, you must initiate him, as it is said: "You shall tell your child on that day, saying: `It is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt.'”

1. Review Shemot Ch. 12:21-28

21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them: 'Draw out, and take you lambs according to your families, and kill the passover lamb. 22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side-posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. 24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. 25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as He p. 79 hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. 26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you: What mean ye by this service? 27 that ye shall say: It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, for that He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.' And the people bowed the head and worshipped. 28 And the children of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.

2. Review Shemot Ch. 13:3-10

3 And Moses said unto the people: 'Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place; there shall no leavened bread be eaten. 4 This day ye go forth in the month Abib. 5 And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, which He swore unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month. 6 Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee, in all thy borders. 8 And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt. 9 And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thy hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in thy mouth; for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt. 10 Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.

 

3. Review Shemot Ch. 13:11-16

11 And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanite, as He swore unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, 12 that thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the womb; every firstling that is a male, which thou hast coming of a beast, shall be the LORD'S. 13 And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break its neck; and all the first-born of man among thy sons shalt thou redeem. 14 And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying: What is this? that thou shalt say unto him: By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 and it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the first-born of man, and the first-born of beast; therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the womb, being males; but all the first-born of my sons I redeem. 16 And it shall be for a sign upon thy hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes; for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt.'

Group  4

Review Devarim Ch. 6:20-25 (see text below)

  1. What are these verses talking about?
  2. Which son’s question is found in these verses?
  3. Is the answer the hagaddah provides us to give the son found here?
  4. What questions do you have about these verses?

Devarim 6:20-25

20 When thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying: `What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which the LORD our God hath commanded you?' 21 then thou shalt say unto thy son: `We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his house, before our eyes. 23 And He brought us out from thence, that He might bring us in, to give us the land which He swore unto our fathers. 24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. 25 And it shall be righteousness unto us, if we observe to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as He hath commanded us.'

Texts provided by The Tanach, Jewish Publication Society tr. [1917], at sacred-texts.com
Chart #1

 

Torah  Verses

Question

Torah’s Answer

Hagaddah’s Answer

Chacham

 

 

 

 

Rasha

 

 

 

 

Tam

 

 

 

 

She’ieino Yodea Lish’ol

 

 

 

 

Chart #2: Comparing the Haggadah to the Bibilcal Source Text via Tanach.org

See Attached Image:


haggadah Section: -- Four Children
Source: original