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In the Haggadah, the response to the Chacham is teaching him the halachos of Pesach, whereas the response to the Tam is that Hashem took us out of Mitzraim with a strong arm.

Yet, in the Yerushalmi, the answers are swapped. The Chacham is told that Hashem took us out of Mitzraim with a strong arm, while the Tam (there the Tipeish) is told the halachos of Pesach. Why the difference?

  • Is your link to Yerushalmi working ok? – David Kenner Mar 16 '18 at 2:55
  • @DavidKenner Good catch, just fixed it. Thanks! – DonielF Mar 16 '18 at 3:24
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    Thanks for asking the question - this is now my new Devar Torah for this Pesach! See also judaism.stackexchange.com/a/90454/16354, – רבות מחשבות Mar 16 '18 at 3:57
  • @רבותמחשבות And this is why bounties exist: so that people can get excellent divrei Torah for their Pesach Sedarim. :) – DonielF Mar 16 '18 at 6:05
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Menachem Ben Yashar provides a fascinating answer here, very summarized as follows:

The Yerushalmi's version was written during the time of the Beis Hamikdash, and thus, there was a real Halachic concern that the Ben Tipesh would not only not learn anything, but break the Halachos of Pesach. For that reason, we teach him a practical Halacha, with a clear explanation:

שאין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן, שלא יהא עומד מחבורה זו ונכנס לחבורה אחרת.

However, the other version (also found in the Mechilta), was written after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, when the main Mitzvah is to learn about it. So the Chacham now learns the technical theoretical part of the Mitzvah, while we explain things clearly to the Tam.

However, there is a lot more depth to it, so please read it inside if you can.

שפתיים ישק וראוי לאמרו!

  • or those interested in more of a discussion of these two purposes, see library.yctorah.org/2016/09/… – רבות מחשבות Mar 16 '18 at 3:59
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    The interesting thing is that R' Chiyya who teaches this Yerushalmi on Pesachim 37 lived after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. This may raise the question as to why he stresses "practical" law concerns for the "foolish" son when even in his times there were no practical concerns. He lived during the times of R' Yehudah HaNassi, circa 200 CE – David Kenner Mar 16 '18 at 4:58
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    @DavidKenner It’s specifically Mechilta d’Rebbi Yishmael (Sefaria has it here). As Rebbi Yishmael lived during the Churban, it could be that his Braisa was composed in its aftermath. R’ Chiya, on the other hand, merely “taught” the Braisa, indicating that it predates him, so it’s not so far of a stretch to say that it was from during the Zman HaBayis. (Recall that R’ Chiya compiled the Tosefta - he had Braisos from all throughout the Tannaic period.) – DonielF Mar 16 '18 at 6:02
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    @DonielF I hear... but what you are saying would make it that the Mechilta somehow decides to quit the old version cold turkey while R' Chiyya, who would have been born and schooled with the Mechilta's "new version" decides to reach back for the earlier preserved text? I am not saying it cannot happen, its just that my ears are open to an alternate reason if it were to make sense. But what you are saying can make sense too. But maybe there is no older/newer based on the churban? Maybe its a machlokes about how to view the chacham and tam on a fundamental level? I don't know yet :-) – David Kenner Mar 16 '18 at 9:20
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    Interestingly, Rabbi Chiyya also preserves a saying that clearly comes from the time of the Temple at the bottom of Pesachim 85b – b a Mar 16 '18 at 10:42
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Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said, “Whoever teaches his grandson Torah is regarded as if he had received the Torah from Mount Sinai as it is said, ‘Teach your children and children’s children,’ and then it says: ‘The day you stood before God your Lord at Horeb.’”

  • Talmud Bavli - Kiddushin 30a

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi used to listen, every Friday, to his grandson reciting the weekly parasha. One week he forgot this, and entered the bathhouse. After he had begun bathing, he remembered that he had not yet heard the weekly parasha from his grandson, and he left the bathhouse. They asked him why he was leaving in the middle of his bathing, since the Mishnah teaches that once you have begun bathing on a Friday afternoon you do not have to interrupt. He replied, “Is this such a small thing in your eyes? For whoever hears the parasha from his grandchild is as if he heard it directly from Mount Sinai as it is said, ‘Teach your children and children’s children,’ and then it says: ‘The day you stood before God your Lord at Horeb.’”

  • Talmud Yerushalmi Shabbos 1:2

Which is greater, to teach your grandchild or to hear your grandchild teach? Since R' Yehoshua ben Levi said both things, and he proves both points from the same verse; we can assume that the Bavli stresses one approach while the Yerushalmi stresses the other. (Although both are true)

If a child needs to be taught, then you will naturally approach the child within his level and invest your teaching within him where he is holding.

If you want your child to be able to teach, then you must encourage him to advance to a level beyond himself.

The first approach (Bavli) is that of the mechilta's view of the 4 sons. The second approach (Yerushalmi) is that of the Yerushalmi's version of the 4 sons.

The Yerushalmi calls the simpler son a "Tipesh" (foolish) which views his current state as a lesser position from which he has the potential to advance. Tipesh has a negative connotation. So the Yerushalmi advises to take the foolish son and transform him by the power in the Torah to become a sage. Teach him wisdom which is right now on a higher level than he is used to learning.

This is why the Yerushalmi prescribes learning Halachah for the "Tipesh".

The Yerushalmi also asks that the "wise" son be told the exciting and powerful story of what Hashem did. This is because the one who is used to intellectual study, needs to grow beyond himself and also exercise feelings that come from the depth of the soul, not just the letter of the Law.

However, the Bavli stresses making sure a child is soundly grounded on their own level first. So the "Tam" (wholesome) child is described with a label that is not negative, but positive in nature. He is to be told things on a level most likely to reach him now; which is the exciting story of Hahsem's power etc.

The "wise" son is also better reached by giving him what he thrives on - learning Halacha.

  • This is an incredible answer. Is it your own chiddush or did you hear it somewhere? – DonielF Mar 16 '18 at 21:29
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    @DonielF you helped me originate this chiddush by challenging us with your q. I was bothered by the other answer (as you know) and I davened, and searched the Yerushalmi for ideas about chinuch. When I saw the two gemaras by R' YbL, I knew I should compare to your q. Hahsem helped me come to this point. Thank You :-) – David Kenner Mar 16 '18 at 21:36
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    טוב שנים יותר מן האחד – DonielF Mar 16 '18 at 21:37
  • YES so true :-) – David Kenner Mar 16 '18 at 21:40
  • Reading through this again, I notice something that I missed before: the Mechilta came before either Gemara. Why assume that the Mechilta specifically goes like the Bavli? While we do say that R’ Chiya can argue on Tannaim, the Gemara only uses that as a last resort. – DonielF Mar 21 '18 at 19:06
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Yosef Tabory (here, p. 173-174) suggests that the Yerushalmi views the Chacham as a very smart son, who already knows the Halachos, and is therefore free to learn about Yetzias Mitzrayim, as he should (and this is similar to "Afilu Kulanu Chachamim", and the story of the Tanaim in Benei Berak), whereas the Tipesh is so stupid he doesn't even know the Halachos properly, which must be learned before he hears about Yetzias Mitzrayim.

On the other hand, in the Haggadah's version, the Chacham is a regular son, and learning the Halachos is an important part of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim, and the Tam is just doing a basic Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim.

In my opinion it's a bit weak, but he does discuss it and make this suggestion.


What is very important is that he makes a very strong case (including manuscript evidence) that the line explaining why the Tipesh learns about Afikoman, which is שלא יהא עומד מחבורה זו ונכנס לחבורה אחרת, does not actually belong in that section at all. This will have an impact on the answer I posted above

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    BTW, the article itself happens to be excellent in summarizing all of the differences in Girsaos between the three major sources of the 4 Sons. – רבות מחשבות Mar 21 '18 at 15:53
  • why should the reason of not migrating to another chaburah be deleted from the Yerushalmi's version? – David Kenner Mar 21 '18 at 21:57
  • The main motivation is that that exact wording is missing from the section of מאי אפיקומן when you compare the bavli and yerushalmi. However, I can't present it as well as he does in the article. I would suggest getting a free account and viewing this article for free. – רבות מחשבות Mar 21 '18 at 22:20

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