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   by Jacob Solomon

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In the future, years after the Exodus…

You are to tell your son on that day (Passover), 'It is because of what G-d did for me when I came out of Egypt.' It shall be a sign for you on your hand, and a memorial on your forehead so that the Laws of G-d shall be in your mouth. For G-d brought you out of Egypt with a mighty hand (13:8-9).

The Baal Hagada refers to the four times the Torah requires parents to tell children about the Exodus - three times in this Parasha, and once in Deuteronomy (6:20-25). The Baal Hadagda states that each time refers to a different type of child - namely, the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the indifferent. And the wording of the Torah's instructing the parent to impart to the child is adjusted in each case to suit the child. 'Train a child in the way that he should go, so that when he is old he will not turn away' (Prov. 22:6).

The directive above is linked to the fourth son - the indifferent one. The person who accepts the Torah way of life as part of his environment, rather than an adventure for his mind. He fits in and goes along with the crowd, rather than becomes actively involved.

The question is - why does such a child need to be specially told at all? Is not the very fact that he is together with everybody else, passively sharing the same experience without any form of resistance sufficient? Let him just be part of things, and absorb the greatness of Torah traditions by the osmosis that is part of one's childhood.

In response, a few months ago the masthead of one shop in the Venice Ghetto caught my eye: 'Come and See Your Portion of the Torah'. Your Portion. That takes you to the root of an individual's involvement with Holy Tradition. The Haftara, Parasha, or section within the shop is 'Yours'. As Chazal put it: the more mesirat nefesh (personal dedication) you put into anything, the more it becomes yours. So in your own unique way you acquired and personalized that territory within the Torah, and it is now your very own possession. Not something towards which you feel indifference or apathy.

A similar message is conveyed by the manner in which the Torah seeks to involve the indifferent son - literally the 'one who does not know how to inquire'. It is linked with 'outward sides' - tefillin: telling the father that 'it shall be a sign for you on your hand, and a memorial on your forehead'. But the mere appearance of father wearing tefillin is not enough.

Tefillin are a reminder of G-d's Omnipresence, which should inspire the father that Torah teaching should be in his 'mouth'. His mouth. He - the father - knows his own son better than anyone else. He is the one who can inspire the son with our Holy Traditions in the unique way that it will become special for him, his own possession…

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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