I've seen Arba'a Banim translated as alternately four sons or four children. Are there any sources for whether the word "Banim" here means sons only or whether it should specifically be translated as "children" in this case so as to include daughters?

  • 4
    In the haggadah case I would suggest "four sons" because the individual sections about each are in the masculine. In general, though, there are uses of the gender neutral masculine.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 11 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


Midrash Sechel Tov Shemot 13:8

והגדת לבנך. זהו שאינו יודע לשאול, שהרי כנגד ארבעה בנים דברה תורה, ולכל אחד ואחד נתנה תורה דרך להשיב לפי עניינו, שהרי העולם נברא בארבע מידות של בני אדם, אחד חכם, ואחד רשע, ואחד תם, ואחד שאינו יודע לשאול:

"You shall tell your son". This is the one who does not know to ask. The Torah spoke about four sons, and for each one the Torah gave a way to answer according to their issue. The world was created with four types of people, one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who does not now to ask.

This teaches us that it's not specifically sons. It might not even be specifically children either (one certainly shouldn't be making parallels between these four sons, and the children at one's seder!).

The four "sons" in the Torah are:

  • The one in Devarim 6:20 who asks "What is the meaning of the edut, chukim and mishpatim which Hashem our God commanded you?"
  • The ones in Shemot 12:26 who asks "What is this service to you?"
  • The one in Shemot 13:14 who asks "What is this?" (Rashi refers to this as the question of the תִּינוֹק טִפֵּשׁ)
  • The one in Shemot 13:8 who doesn't ask, but gets an answer.


Finally, the halacha derived from 13:8 is that one must relate the story, and most essentially one must relate it to children, and the word generally used is לילדים. See Peninei Halacha Pesach 15:1 for eg.

Sefer Hachinuch extends it to not just children, but כָּל בְּרִיָּה. See also Sefer Hamitzvot, which gives quite the analysis on how to derive everyone, rather than just sons.

tl;dr: in this case it certainly means children (or anyone), and not specifically sons.


Similar to @Rabbi Kaii, my grandfather, Rav Eliezer ben David, would use the gmara (brachot 64a, see that this applies everywhere from Nazir 12b-13a) that says the word "בניך" - sons - can be read as "בוניך" - builders - to explain it as 4 things that build a person, eg 4 different characteristics each person has within him.

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