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Regarding והגדת לבנך, and you shall tell to your children (Shemos 13:8), on Pesach night:

1) What is the mitzvah of והגדת לבנך and how does one fulfill it according to halacha?

2a) Why do yeshivos give out divrei torah to children to say at the Seider, if the mitzvah of Pesach night is והגדת לבנך?

2b) Are there any poskim that oppose yeshivos giving out divrei torah to children to say at the Seider? If there are, who are they?

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    I'm not voting to close as Q 2a seems quite clear. 1 and 2b, however, are not. I have no idea who has voted to close, yet, but, perhaps a comment explaining why, would help us. – DanF Feb 18 '15 at 17:57
  • @DanF: Do you understand what I'm asking? – Chiddushei Torah Feb 18 '15 at 19:03
  • With the edits that you made, yes, it does seem clearer. Thanks. – DanF Feb 18 '15 at 19:20
  • @DanF: I'm happy and you're welcome. What surprises me is that no one has ever thought about this or even asked about this issue beforehand. – Chiddushei Torah Feb 18 '15 at 19:29
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    Questions 2a and 3 in the current version look like rhetorical, rather than interrogative, questions . – Isaac Moses Feb 18 '15 at 19:36
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Your question has various aspects, but as they are all related, I hope that my answer addresses all the items in some fashion.

Q1 - You may want to read Ohr HaChaim's commentray on the verse you cited. While not directly indicating what the halacha is, he implies that from the wording, the concept is that the parents should tell the story of Pesach at night specifically when Matzah and Maror are in front of him. Keep in mind that there was no concept of a "Seder" at the time the Torah was given. What is also apparent from the placement of the verse, is that the previous verse says that you should eat Matzah for seven days, and a key phrase in this verse (the one you cited) is "ba'avur zeh" - because of THIS - meaning it is an answer to why we eat Matzah - at least, immediately. Rash"i also explains that this is an answer to the wicked son, a concept developed later, as the 4 sons are part of the Seder.

Now, to answer the rest of your questions - you raise a valid point, and this has been addressed in the past. I refer you to this article . Within it, he mentions these points:

  • Citing Mishnah Pesachim, 10th Chapter, it says:

When the second cup of wine is poured, it is expected that the child, curious about what has transpired, will begin questioning. If the child is not aware enough to notice the differences, his father is to prod him with a series of observations – “Look at how different tonight is from all other nights!” The continuation of the Mishnaic description states that the father should teach his child according to the child's ability to understand, and suggests that the teaching begin with an exploration of how bad things were before they got better. Finally, the Mishnah adds that part of the seder should include an expounding of the Torah portion beginning with the description of the wandering Aramean.

Let us consider what preparation this child had for this event. Was the child trained in advance to memorize a series of questions he would perform for the assembled? Apparently not, as the Mishnah seems to suggest that the questions are spontaneous. In fact, there is no fixed text for the questions the child asks, only for the father whose child has failed to notice the changes at the table.

So, it seems clear that you are correct that the commandment is for the parents to teach children and not in reverse.

The author suggests the following:

Creating a contemporary educational program for the seder needs to focus on the parents as much as on the children, restoring the parent's role as a key transmitter of an oral tradition, and should account for the essentially non-text component of the evening. In the younger grades, model seders should be held for parents, and not their children. Educational packets should present parents with the tools for leading a seder which positions the children at the center of an inquisitive process directed by the parents; as their children grow, parents need to be taught how to encourage their children to ask more substantive questions.

I also recommend reading the related blog to the article, as some of the writers offer supplemental ideas. In one of the emails, the author of the article adds this story:

I have been told that in the late Forties and Fifties Rav Avigdor Miller would tell the members of his Shul that they should make sure at the Seder to listen to what their children had learned in yeshiva. During those years the majority of the members of his Shul did not have extensive yeshiva educations.

On the other hand, a grandson of his told me that at his Seder Rav Miller would go through the Haggadah, and focus on explaining only a few key points. When a grandchild would say "My rebbe said," Rav Miller would smile and say, "Let's wait until later to hear what he said." He would then move on, continuing the Haggadah narrative. The grandson told me that he never recalled "later" coming.

In summary - you raised an important question, and I hope the article addresses your concerns. With that, wishes for a Happy and educational Pesach.

  • Thank you very much! I'm even more interested to know what our Gedolim (i.e. Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky) have to say on this matter. – Chiddushei Torah Feb 18 '15 at 20:25
  • @ChiddusheiTorah I haven't seen his brother, Rav Binyamin, in a while. Next time I see him, B"N, I'll try to ask him what he or what his father, a"h, thinks, if your specific to the Kaminetzky "clan". – DanF Feb 18 '15 at 20:49

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