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Four for Your Passover Seders

Different Approaches to the Four Children

From Telling the Story: A Passover Haggadah Explained by Barry Louis Polisar

The wise child questions, “What is the meaning of the laws and observances which the Lord, our God, has commanded?” In response to this child we explain the observances of the Passover in-depth.

The scornful child questions, “What does this service mean to you?” This child says “to you” and do not feel a part of our observances. By excluding himself, this child would not have been redeemed had he or she been in Egypt. We ask this child to listen closely and become part of our traditions and learn what the Seder means.

The simple child questions, “What is this ceremony about?” We say, “We are remembering a time long ago when we were forced to work as slaves. God made us a free people and we are celebrating our freedom.” We hope by observing the Seder year after year, this child will come to appreciate the message of the Passover holiday.

The innocent child doesn’t think to question. To this child we say, “In the spring of every year we remember how we were brought our of slavery to freedom.”

From Uncle Eli’s Special-for-Kids, Most Fun Ever, Under-the-Table Passover Haggadah by Eliezer Lorne Segal

To our Seder last year came a strange-looking man with four kids:
Smarty, Nasty, and Simple, and Sam.
Now Smarty was smart—
so clever and wise,
he could do the whole Seder
while closing his eyes.
From beginning to end,
from the end to the start,
he recited it
over and over by heart.
In Hebrew and Hindi,
in Snufic and Roman,
from the first HaLachma
to the last Afikoman.

But Nasty refused
to take part in the Seder.
He just sat there and smiled
with his pet alligator
as he pulled people’s hair
and he poked people’s eyes
and sprinkled their matzah
with beetles and flies.

He certainly has
quite a bad attitude.
If his fangs were less sharp
he might not be so rude.
If he’d been in Egypt
complaining this way,
we’d have left him behind
to keep slaving all day.

Away in the corner
sits sweet sister Simple.
Whenever she smiles
her face breaks out in dimples.
She only asks
about simple facts
like “What is matzah?”
and “Tell me how tall is a
Gloogasaurus Zax?

Sam doesn’t even
know what to say.
He just sits in his box
till the end of the day,
till his dad packs him up
and takes him away.

From the Breslov Haggadah, Based Upon the teaching of the Hasidic Master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), Podolia and Ukraine, cited in Creating Lively Passover Seders: A Sourcebook of Engaging Tales, Texts & Activities © 2004 David Arnow (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, www.jewishlights.com).

Four Children: the wise, the wayward, the simple, the sleeping.

Four worlds [of potential existence, according to the Kabbalists].

All are essential to the Divine Plan of Creation. Each manifests a different aspect of the Divine. All the children, all the Jewish souls, are integral to the Jewish People. Symbolic of the four levels of Jewish Awareness. All are intrinsic to God’s Plan for humanity. Each is imbued with a unique way of perceiving the Divine. Only together is the unity of the Jewish people complete… Rather than search in others, we must delve into ourselves. We all, to varying degrees, have aspects of the Four Children—Four Selves—within us. We must integrate the positive elements and re-channel the negative. s we hear the voices of the children, as we learn how to handle them, let us also learn how to deal with the voices of the different selves inside us. Only together is our Jewishness complete.

“The Song of Questions” written by E.M. Broner and Naomi Nimrod, in The Women’s Seder Sourcebook: Ritual & Readings for Use at the Passover Seder, Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, Tara Mohr & Catherine Spector, eds.

Mother, asks the clever daughter,
who are our mothers?
who are our ancestors?
what is our history?
Give us our name. Name our genealogy.

Mother, asks the wicked daughter,
if I learn my history, will I not be angry?
Will I not be bitter as Miriam
who was deprived of her prophecy?

Mother, asks the simple daughter,
if Miriam lies buried in sand,
why must we dig up those bones?
why must we remove her from the sun
and stone
where she belongs?

The one who knows not how to question,
she has no past, she has no present, she
can have no future
without know her mothers,
without knowing her angers,
without knowing her questions.