Monday, April 6, 2015

The Tzaddik at the Seder?

In the run-up to Pesach, I delivered a shiur on "Pesach: When the Questions Matter More than the Answers" in a few different venues. On a couple of those occasions, as a tangent to the shiur, I asked this question: Why do we have a wise, wicked, simple and unquestioning child in our list of four, but we don't have a tzaddik (righteous child) in the list?

Some suggested that the wise child is righteous, but I disagree.

Some suggested that we cannot ascribe righteousness to our children, but I disagree for two reasons: 1) These are not necessarily small children, and 2) If we cannot ascribe righteousness, how can we ascribe wickedness?

Some suggested that each of these characteristics is only a trait, and not a complete person, and so we cannot discuss a child as righteous, which is a collective trait. I personally agree that these are traits, but I don't see how one could apply this to righteousness and not to wickedness.

At our Seder, I noted that the four children are all presented to us by the Torah in the context of telling our children about our departure from Egypt. The Torah is advising us that we must speak to each of these children in a manner appropriate to them - regardless of their disparate religious personalities.

If so, then perhaps the message of the omission of the tzaddik is this: Each of our children needs the conversation about the Exodus, in a different way. We should see none of them (and none of ourselves, although we may be parents and uncles and aunts and grandparents) as "tzaddik", meaning complete, and being beyond that conversation. The goal is to educate them properly, so that they will grow toward that state, but a parent should never assume that the child is already there. Look for your child's particular need, and address it, to initiate your child into the history and religious identity of our nation.


  1. ifnanything your thesis would better explain the rational if indeed the taadikbwere mentioned and the chacham wasn't. it seems like you take for granted that the taadik (a character trait) also has extensive chachma which j don't necessarily see being the case. If someone was just a taadik I don't see why there is a Java Amina that there would be little to teach him. If a thong the thirst to learn more would create a feeling of greater obligation upon the father as a mechanaych to feed his thirst for knowledge. As a father I would feel much more pressure to ensure I was keeping up with the Torah stimulation that my righteous sons thirst for truth and knowledge demanded.

    1. Thanks for commenting, but would you mind re-posting a corrected version? I'm not sure what you are saying, because of the typos.

  2. All of the sons besides the Rasha are not wicked, but they have other important, and different, characteristics.