Friday, April 02, 2010

Thoughts on Keneged Arba Banim

The next section of the Haggadah is about the Four Sons.

After a short blessing to Hashem, we are introduced to the four characters to whom the father might respond. This, in part, reflects the idea of chanoch lanaar al pi darko. There is no one ideal response, and no one ideal seder. What is the optimal response to the Chacham may be the worst possible response to the Tam. And so on. This is something to keep in mind, even though we purportedly have a fixed text of maggid. Don't do maggid at the expense of neglect of sippur yetzias mitzrayim. The mitzvah is {Shemot 13}:

ח  וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר:  בַּעֲבוּר זֶה, עָשָׂה יְהוָה לִי, בְּצֵאתִי, מִמִּצְרָיִם.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.

Let us make a derasha by stressing the word לְבִנְךָ. You are to relate to your son, and not to someone else's theoretical son. And blessed be Hashem who gave the Torah to His nation Israel, in a way that they could receive it. And different responses to different sons are encoded in that Torah.

Moving away from slight homily and back to peshat, this maamar is likely based on explaining the existence of several different responses in different contexts to sons across Chumash.

The four sons are the Chacham, Rasha, Tam, and SheAino Yodea Lishol. We will, be'ezrat Hashem, focus on each in turn. But in short, the Chacham is not the tzaddik. He is not necessarily even the hero, over anyone else. He is a specific type of son, who appears interested in halacha. The rasha seems to be a min, who might not deserve a response. Or else the response is geared towards shocking him and moving him away from his evil ways. The Tam is, according to Yerushalmi, the tipesh, but this need not be so in our Haggadah. I would guess that the haggadah is actually more geared towards the tam, for that is the closest to the mitzvah of sippur yetzias mitzrayim.

This is still about the chiyuv, rather than the actual fulfillment of the chiyuv. And perhaps all this should be from Rosh Chodesh, with the actual sippur occuring the night of the seder. But maybe this is not only about the chiyuv. After all, this maamar includes what the typical appropriate response is for each son. And since the son is there, by reading this maamar you actually are saying the appropriate response to whichever son happens to be before you.

On to analyzing each of the four sons!

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