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In the future, your child may ask: "What is this?" You must answer him: "With a show of power, G-d brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery" (13:14).
The Passover Haggada expounds on the four instances where the Torah requires parents to tell the children about the Exodus; three times in this Parasha, and once in Deuteronomy (6:20-25). The Torah phrases each instance differently, in order to address each of the four different types of child according to his or her individual nature: wise, wicked, simple, and indifferent. This indicates that a child's learning should be approached according to personality, in the spirit of: "Train a child according to his nature, so that when he is old he will not turn away" (Prov. 22:6).
Two out of the four children, the wise child and the simple child, are addressed with the world machar. Machar is literally translated as tomorrow. Rashi, however explains that the word machar in this context does not mean tomorrow, but some time in the future. Thus:
"In the future (machar), your child will ask you: "What are the rituals, rules, and laws that G-dů has commanded you?" (Deut. 6:20), is the question of the chacham, the wise child.
Similarly here in this parasha:
Your child may ask you in the future (machar): "What is this?" You must answer him: "With a show of power, G-d brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery" (13:14) is the question of the tam, the simple son.
Unlike Rashi, the Kli Yakar translates machar literally. Machar does mean 'tomorrow'. According to the Kli Yakar, the fact that the child asked the question the following day rather than on the occasion itself reflects positively on the child. The chacham's question implies being already committed. It is a desire to understand in more depth. The tam's question indicates a positive attitude; sufficient interest to want to know what's going on.
Yet both do not ask their question during the event, but after the event. Part of the chacham's wisdom is being socially sensitive enough not to press for details during the mitzvot's (including the annual Passover proceedings) actual proceedings, as that might be interpreted as an attempt to provoke disruption. Indeed, public speakers face similar dilemmas when uncertain whether the questionner from the floor is trying to heckle or is genuinely requesting information. Thus the chacham watches, and reflects until the next day before asking the question. Similarly the tam. He views both proceedings described in this week's parasha: the annual Passover ceremonies, and the payment of a sum of money for the redemption of the firstborn. He stands respectfully, without demanding information on the spot. Like the chacham, he waits until the morrow, retaining sufficient positive interest to find out what is going on.
[The rasha's question, in contrast, is expressed without machar. It is the rasha who interrupts the proceedings with "What is this service to you?" It is the rasha's disrupting of the proceedings that helps to provoke the terse and harsh response.]
Thus in waiting for the morrow, both the chacham and the tam show derech eretz, decent behavior. They can both teach the following lesson. Individuals today may well find themselves in an environment when everyone else seems to know what they are doing, but they can't make any sense of what's going on. Wait. Observe. Think. Keep the queries in mind, but don't jump in with the questions straight away. Participate unobtrusively if possible and reasonable, but otherwise let things happen. Reflect on the proceedings and try to make sense of them. "Sleep on it". Then ask machar, on the following day, having looked at them from a wider perspective.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com 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: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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