Some of the songs at the end of the seder have an obvious connection to what has come before. Adir Hu is about praising God, which we've been doing all night; Eliyahu HaNavi makes sense because Eliyahu is part of the seder; Bashana Haba'ah fits with our desire to be in Eretz Yisrael next year. And then there are the two progressive songs, one about a goat and one that counts up various important things, none of them about Pesach in particular. Why were these songs chosen for the seder?

I am aware of this similar question about Echad Mi Yodea. The comments and answer there are basically "to keep busy", but that doesn't answer the question of why these songs in particular.

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    Cuz they are fun to sing and entertaining. Children (and people in general) love to memorize sequential songs such as these and recite them. Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 2:00
  • Well, I mean, the goat is the Korban Pesah.
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 2:24
  • @SethJ, how do you account for the cat? Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 14:03
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    @MonicaCellio Have you been to Israel?
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 14:10
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    @MonicaCellio I think that's why the dog got so upset...
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 15:05

3 Answers 3


One interpretation is it's an allegory to the exile and the affliction of all the nations on the Jews (the goat - Yosef etc) and we end the Seder with Hashem redeeming them.

Its allegorical so there are as many interpretations as you are willing to find


Chad Gad Ya, as pointed out by rabbi Brander, has many deeper meanings. Perhaps a few more interpretations:

  1. We start the seder with a full kearah, we end with a song full of hope for a final full redemption
  2. There are 14 (yod dalet) in gematria parts to the seder, but if you add the total of them (ie add one for the kollel) it forms yod heh--a name of G-d. To do this kavanah, one must end with G-d in a final act of redemption of his people, and have started with G-d and a complete kearah, as was at the end of yemei bereshit.
  3. Parts of the acts are normal, (dog bites cat, ox drinks water) and some are not (sticks hitting dogs, G-d killing angel of death) At times we seem caught in natural events and at times, supernatural events. We may never recognize them as one or the other, but they are continual in our lives...yet at the end it is only by supernatural means (G-d's love for us) that we will be blessed with a full and final redemption.
Chag Sameach

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya Philippe. Good perush. Can you say more about rabbi Brander?
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 16:28

Chad Gadya - Why do we sing it as the Seder?

One Jewish author from the 1800's, Yitzchak Baer Levinsohn, and subsequently the Encyclopedia Judaica, write the purpose of the song is "for the amusement of the children so that they might not fall asleep before the end of the seder."

Many rabbis take issue with this trivialization, on the basis that if it became part of the holy seder service, there must be a good reason. In addition, if the purpose is to keep the children awake, it should be sung earlier, not at the very end.

(In my humble opinion, it's not meant to be sung at the end. It's meant to be sung whenever the children stop paying attention. We only sing it at the end because it was originally printed at the end as an addendum.)

The Jewish Encyclopeida (1906) writes that song seems to be an embodiment of the idea of justice, of reward and punishment, and relative order among all the objects in Creation.

Encyclopedia Judaica writes that the traditional interpretation is one "in which the kid symbolizes the oppressed Jewish people. It was bought by the father (God) for two coins (Moses and Aaron). The devouring cat stands for Assyria; the dog is Babylon; the stick represents Persia; the fire Macedonia; the water is Rome; the ox, the Saracens; the shoḥet, the Crusaders; and the Angel of Death, the Turks who in those days ruled Palestine. The end of the song expresses the hope for messianic redemption: God destroys the foreign rulers of the Holy Land and vindicates Israel, "the only kid."

It also mentions that "other commentators have tried to interpret "Ḥad Gadya" as an allegorization of the Joseph legend or of the relationship between body and soul as reflected in Jewish mysticism," but does not expand on this. Thankfully, R' Kenneth Brander does explain.

The body and soul explanation was given by Rav Yaakov Emden (1700's, Germany). He writes that The soul is compared to a small goat. The soul is the dimension of the body that our father (God) in heaven has given us. He continues to explain that the various animals and actions are things that affect the soul. For example, the Shochet represents the destructive force that is created whn one sins. Etc. A similar interpretation is given by Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai (the Chida, 1700's).

Rav Yonatan Eybeschuetz (1700's, Poland), give an explanation based on the historical saga of the Jewish people. It's similar to the one listed by the Encyclopeida Judaica, with some reinterpretations, such as the Stick being Moshe's staff, and the Water being Torah. The Vilna Gaon has a similar interpretation.

A third approach is presented by R . Moses Sofer (Hatam Sofer, 1800's Germany), which R' Brander classifies as “A Review of the Passover sacrificial laws in preparation for the Messianic Age." The goat is the Korban Pesach, and each stanza is a different halacha.

In conclusion, to quote R' Avi Weiss: "One wonders, why is this deep message written in metaphor. It may be to teach that so much in Jewish history cannot be understood as it occurs, it can only be deciphered in hindsight. And it may be that the Chad Gadya is written playfully and humorously to teach that to survive against the odds requires the ability to laugh. Our very existence is difficult to believe, and in that sense almost funny."

(Please see R' Brander's article for more information.)

Echad Mi Yodea - From what I've read, the purpose is to entertain the children. There are additional answers in this question.

  • As for why these songs, and not any other songs - Well, if we did sing different songs, you'd ask why those songs, and not these songs. In other words, not a valid question.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 20:28
  • Do you have a suggestion for a better song? (I'd prefer no songs at all - after חסל סידור פסח, we should just stop.)
    – Shmuel
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 20:29
  • I don't have other songs in mind; presumably if there were a need somebody would have written some. I did note in the question that some of the songs we sing seem to make sense in context (e.g. I didn't ask "why 'Adir Hu'"), which is why these two stood out for me -- given that the other songs are "on theme", what is it about these two that I'm missing? Thanks for the interesting analysis! Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 20:37

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