Motherly Outreach on Our Journey

Before we learn a new teaching about “motherly” outreach at the Seder, we need to review the following basic teachings from Part 2 of this miniseries:
It is a mitzvah to tell about the Exodus from Egypt on the night of the Seder – the night which is the beginning of the 15th day of Nissan. A source for this mitzvah is found in the following verse:
“And you shall tell your son on that day saying, ‘It is because of this that Hashem did so for me when I went out of Egypt.’ ” (Exodus 13:8)
“And you shall tell your son” – The Sefer HaChinuch, a classical work on the Torah’s mitzvos, writes:
“As to Scripture’s expression, ‘your son,’ it does not mean necessarily one’s son, as it can mean any person” (Mitzvah 21).
One can therefore fulfill this mitzvah by telling one’s son, one’s daughter, or any person about the Exodus from Egypt. Maimonides, in his Book of Mitzvos, explains that if one is alone on this night, one has a mitzvah to tell about the Exodus from Egypt to one’s self (Mitzvah 157).
There is a passage in the Haggadah which discusses the four types of “sons” that we are to address during the Seder, and the term “sons” in this passage is a generic term which includes sons and daughters. The Haggadah begins the discussion by stating:
 “Concerning four sons does the Torah speak: a wise one, a wicked one, a simple one, and one who does not know how to ask.”
The messages of the Haggadah to each of the “four sons” have the following common goal: to help them to develop their own spiritual potential through serving the Divine purpose for all creation. Each response is appropriate for the personality of each of them. As the wise King Solomon wrote:
“Educate the youth according to his way” (Proverbs 22:6). 
Dear Friends,
This letter will discuss how we are to relate to the son who does not know how to ask. Regarding this individual, the Haggadah states:
“As for the son that does not know how to ask, you open the conversation for him.”
In Hebrew, pronouns have both a masculine and feminine form. For example, the masculine term for “you” is ata, and the feminine term for “you” is at. There are previous statements in the passages about the other sons where the speaker is addressed as, ata – the masculine form. In the above statement about the one who does not know how to ask, the speaker is addressed as at – the feminine form. What is the significance of this change?
According to one explanation, this teaches us that the one who does not know how to ask needs to be addressed in a “motherly” and loving manner. I recently found a similar explanation in a commentary on the Haggadah by Rav Dovid Feinstein, a leading Torah scholar in North America. Regarding the one who does not know how to ask, Rav Feinstein writes:
“The Haggadah uses the feminine form of the word you in telling us how to treat this son with motherly kindness and patience.” (Anah Dodi Haggadah – ArtScroll)
Why does the Haggadah recommend this “motherly” approach for the son who does not know how to ask? This son is not like the wicked son, who receives a sharp reply which serves as a wake-up call. The wicked son needs this wake-up call, for as we learned in the previous letter, he willfully rejects the following raison d’etre of our people: We are to serve the altruistic Divine purpose for all creation through fulfilling the mitzvos of the Torah.
The one who does not know how to ask is like the wise son and the simple son who understand that our purpose is to serve the Divine purpose and who therefore request information. The previous letter described how the wise son asks in a sophisticated way. The simple son expresses his question in a simple way, and he asks, “What is this?” The son who does not know how to ask, however, lacks the ability to express himself clearly; thus, he is afraid to speak up. In addition, his inability to express himself clearly may have caused him embarrassment in the past and may have even evoked ridicule; thus, he is very sensitive about his situation. We must therefore initiate the conversation with him in a motherly and loving manner, so that he will feel included at the Seder.
How are we to initiate the conversation with the one who does not know how to ask? Rav Dovid Feinstein finds an allusion to an answer to this question in the following verse which the Haggadah applies to the one who does not know how to ask:
“You shall tell your son on that day: ‘It is because of this that Hashem did so for me when I went out of Egypt.” (Exodus 13:8)
“You shall tell” – Rav Feinstein points out that the Hebrew term for “you shall tell” (higad’ta) is related to the Hebrew term for stories and narratives (agad’ta). The verse is therefore indicating that we are to tell this son inspiring stories that will capture his interest and arouse his love for Hashem. 
The “four sons” mentioned in the Haggadah can also be understood as four personality traits within each of us. As we learned in the previous letter, this is the interpretation of Rav Yehudah Leib Chasman, and he says. “One moment we are the wise one, the next moment the wicked one; one instant we are the simple one, the next instant we are unable to ask.” According to this interpretation, there are occasions when we are like the one who does not know how to ask; thus, we too, need to hear inspiring stories that can capture our interest and arouse our love for the Redeeming One.
Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)
Related Comments:
1. We should not underestimate the spiritual power of stories, for the Torah begins with stories. Within the Torah is the Book of Exodus, and this book also begins with stories.
2. For information on the Anah Dodi Haggadah with the commentary of Rav Dovid Feinstein, visit:


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