Haggadah: Telling and Empowering

The following text is one of the four times the Torah asks us to be sure there is a telling of the Exodus from Egypt to our children. 


From the above text plus the three others, the Rabbis had the idea of Four Sons of the Haggadah

The Rabbis were Piscean New-Agers, and in those days, they read bin-cha as “your son.”  That’s how they understood it.  Instead of “your son,” we read it as “your child,” the Four Children

In Hebrew, the word “children” can be either Yeladim / young boys and girls, or Banim / offspring (of any age).   When the word bin-cha occurs in the Torah, the “children” refers to the latter usage, i.e., child of any age, offspring.  

It is also understood to mean the child within oneself. 

So at the Passover Seder, we must speak about Exile, Pessah, Deliverance, Faith and Healing with our sons, our daughters and the child within ourselves.

While the Seder speaks of four kinds of children, we can also say there are four kinds of parents who answer:  1) the body, 2) the feeling spirit, 3) the intellective soul, and 4) the intuitive God-spark in us.  What a blessing to give voice to all these four and to open these four in our children. 

Children know whether we have just gone through motions, or really leveled with them.  When we “Tell it to our children,” we tend to speak piously.  But, that’s not how we really do our faith-ing.  Don’t be like the pious-speaking parent who, when his child asked, “What is it all about,” answered, “Shut up junior and read the Haggadah.” 

The Seder can be used as a real forum for saying what we believe, for saying that for which we truly stand. 

If the statements are real, it will be likely that the child will pass on to her children the truths of her heart when she becomes a parent.  She will say, “My parent leveled with me, telling me what was in his heart about God and the world, enabling me to form my vision freely from his experience of what is real and from my experience of what is real.”

These are freeing things.  Please take time this Pessah and really share at your Seders.

The whole haggadah is set up to facilitate the sharing of faith.

Peh Sach / A Mouth that Speaks 

On a certain level, we are all mute, voiceless.

Our normal modes of talking, (describing, gossipping, evaluating, judging, criticizing), do not create new realities through our words, and so we are as those who are mute and voiceless.  Although we are capable, we do not usually stand in the place of power to shape worlds with our words.

It was this mute, voiceless level, that Pharaoh saw and attempted to exploit. 



Midbar / desert can also be read Medabber / power speech; so the translation becomes, “They are imprisoned…  the Power Speech is closed off from them.”  

Pharaoh reasoned:  “Their power had always been in their speech.  If this power has left them, then they have grown dumbfounded and lost.”  So Pharaoh figured we were vulnerable and he could zap us.  

But then, as the Kotzker Rebbe wrote and as I heard from the Novominsker, what did God do?  He gave us Peh Sach, a mouth that speaks. 

This is a meaning of Pessah, the gift God gave us to regain a Peh Sach, a mouth that speaks.

It’s another reason why, in answering the child, we have to speak something that is real for us and say B’avur Zeh / because of this.  This is what God has done for me. 

By offering a testimony that will resonate as true for us, we reply in the right way, the empowering way.

The parent, who really talks with a child from the place of vital commitment, opens vital speech for him/her. Att Pytach lo / you should make an opening to him/her.  The way we give our word and the way we keep our word after it is given makes those with whom we deal able to speak also!


May the Matzah, and the Maror revitalize our speech this Pesach.

     by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi     (Pessach 5749 / 1989)

One Response to “Haggadah: Telling and Empowering”

  1. Select Section Jewish Culture & Yiddish: 24JEWISH ALERTS large selection videos and feeds in each section | 24JEWISH Says:

    […] until the bedtime shema, the Four Sons, “we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt,” “You shall tell your child on that day…” and “even if we were all wise, discerning, learned, scholars of […]

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