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The Haggadah, the Ultimate Educator's Handbook

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Torah » Education | Subscribe | What is RSS?


In the Haggadah we read about the Four Sons, their questions, and the proper responses for each one. A superficial reading of these passages doesn’t reveal too much, but a little digging divulges tremendous insight into the Torah’s view on education. Indeed, a better educator’s handbook couldn’t have been written…

The wise one, what does he say? “What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which G-d, our Lord, has commanded you?” You, in turn, shall instruct him [all] the laws of Peach [up to] ‘one is not to eat any dessert after the Paschal lamb’.

This child, the one with so many detailed questions, is all too often not recognized as the wise one. Frequently he or she is referred to as “the nudge” or “the pest.” At the Seder table, while the adults are trying to have a nice conversation about “important” matters, this “disrespectful” child keeps on interrupting with questions. Very annoying. Especially when you don’t know all the answers…

The Haggadah tells us that this child isn’t disrespectful or a nudge. He is wise. Remember that your child is your greatest and most important responsibility, and nothing will turn-off a child more than a parent or teacher who doesn’t treat their questions with proper respect.

Answer your child. Answer every detail—if you don’t know the answer ask your rabbi ( has a live scholar waiting to answer your questions 24/6). Otherwise you might, G-d forbid end up with…

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 that which is fundamental. You, therefore, must blunt his teeth and say to him: “‘It is because of this that G-d did for me when I left Egypt (Exodus 13:8)’; ‘for me’ — but not for him! If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!”

This child asks a seemingly innocent question. Only careful examination of the language of the question reveals the problem.

When we are asked a question, our natural instinct is to answer the question. The Haggadah tells us that sometimes it is more important to address the questioner than to answer the particular question; but this can only be done if the parent/teacher is really listening to the question, even paying attention to the wording of the question. Obviously the question must be answered too, as we learned from the section that deals with the wise son, but that is of secondary importance.

We inform the “wicked” son that if he would’ve been there, in Egypt, he would not have been redeemed. But now is different. Since the Torah was given at Mount Sinai every Jew has a G-dly soul and, like it or not, will be redeemed with all his brethren when Moshiach comes. This hopefully “blunts his teeth,” allowing him to realize that it is useless to try to bite and attack, because this, the Seder table, is his very special destiny.

The simpleton, what does he say? “What is this?” Thus you shall say to him: “God took us out of Egypt, from the house of slaves, with a strong hand.”


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Mitzvot » Education
Holidays » Passover » Seder » The Haggadah

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Text read at the Passover Eve feasts. The Haggadah recounts in great detail the story of our Exodus from Egypt.
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Bitter herbs consumed at the Passover Seder, commemorating how the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors.
A mixture of ground fruit and nuts, flavored with a splash of red wine. During the Passover seder, the maror (bitter herbs) are dipped into the Charoset.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.