The Four Children

Haggadah Section: -- Four Children

Jewish tradition tells of four children with unique ways of understanding Passover: the wise child, the wicked child, the simple child and the silent child. Yet we know that no child is all wise, all wicked, all simple or incapable of asking anything. At different points in our lives, we have been each of these children.

What does the wise child say? 
The wise child asks diligently, “What are the testimonies and laws which God commanded you?”

What does it mean to be the wise child? 
It means to be fully engaged in the community, to know the limits of your understanding, to be able to search for the answers to that which you do not know. 

At different points in our lives, we have been this child—inquisitive, caring, eager to learn and to understand, wiling to ask for information we do not have, hopeful that an answer can be found.

What does the wicked child say? 
The wicked child asks, “What does this service mean to you?”
To you and not to himself or herself. 

What does it mean to be the wicked child? 
It means to stand apart from the community, to feel alienated and alone, depending only on yourself, to have little trust in the people around you to help or answer your questions.

At different points in our lives, we have been this child—detached, suspicious, challenging.

What does the simple child say? 
The simple child asks, “What is this?”

What does it mean to be a simple child? 
It means to see only one layer of meaning, to ask the most basic of questions, to be too innocent or impatient to grasp complicated questions.

At different points in our lives, we have all been this child—simply curious and innocently unaware of the complexities around us.

What about the child who doesn’t know how to ask a question? 
Help this child ask. Start telling the story: “It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.”

What does it mean to be the silent child? 
This can be the indifferent child, no longer willing to engage. It can be the passive child, who just shows up. Or it can be the child whose spiritual life is based on faith, not rational arguments, the child who hears something deeper than words, who knows how to be silent and to listen to the surrounding silence.

At different points in our lives, we have all been this child—unable to articulate, quiet, searching for the right words, listening in silence.

Discussion Question

We have asked the cleverest of questions; we have challenged provocatively; we have simply wanted to know the answer; and we have been so confused that we could not speak. We have been all of these children. Which one are you tonight?

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The Wandering Is Over Haggadah
Table of contents
  • Leader’s Guide
  • How To Use This Haggadah
  • A Seder for Everyone
  • The Order of the Seder
    • Kadesh
  • Kiddush (the blessing over wine)
    • Urchatz
  • Urchatz: Ritual hand-washing in preparation for the seder
    • Karpas
  • Karpas: Dipping a green vegetable in salt water
    • Yachatz
  • Yachatz: Breaking the middle matzah
    • Maggid - Beginning
  • Maggid: Telling the story of Passover
    • -- Four Questions
  • The Four Questions
  • Answering Our Questions
    • -- Four Children
  • The Four Children
    • -- Exodus Story
  • Telling Our Story
    • -- Ten Plagues
  • The Ten Plagues
  • The Modern Plagues
    • -- Cup #2 & Dayenu
  • Dayeinu
  • The Passover Symbols
  • In Every Generation
  • The Second Glass of Wine
    • Rachtzah
  • Rachtza: Ritual hand-washing in preparation for the meal
    • Motzi-Matzah
  • Motzi matzah: The blessing over the meal and matzah
    • Maror
  • Maror: Dipping the bitter herb in sweet charoset
    • Koreich
  • Koreich: Eating a sandwich of matzah and bitter herb
    • Shulchan Oreich
  • Shulchan oreich: Eating the meal!
    • Tzafun
  • Tzafoon: Finding and eating the afikoman
    • Bareich
  • Bareich: Saying the blessing after the meal and inviting Elijah the prophet
  • The Third Glass of Wine
  • The Cup of Elijah
    • Hallel
  • Hallel: Singing songs that praise God
  • The Fourth Glass of Wine
    • Nirtzah
  • Nirtzah: Ending the seder and thinking about the future
    • Commentary / Readings
  • 20 Table Topics for Your Passover Seder
  • Four Questions About Trans Rights and Identities
  • Four Questions About Anti-Semitism
  • Four Questions About Mental Health
  • Four Questions About Taking Notice of This Moment
  • Four Questions About Feminism
  • Four Questions About Labor Rights
  • Four Questions About Climate Change
  • Four Questions About LGBTQ Liberation
  • Four Questions About Racial Justice
  • Four Questions About Inclusion
  • Four Questions About Israel
  • Four Questions About Parenting Jewishly Today
  • Four Questions About Social Justice
    • Songs
  • Let My People Go
  • Chad Gadya
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