In the Haggadah, the third son is known as the "Tam" ("innocent" or "simple") child. In the version presented in the Yerushalmi, he is known as the "Tipeish" ("stupid") child, a drastically different way of approaching exactly the same question. Even further, Rashi calls him the "Tinok Tipeish" and the "Sho'el Derech Setumah" ("the one who asks bluntly").

Why are there so many different ways to refer to the same child? Why doesn't everyone just call him the same thing?

That is to say, what is it about this child that the Yerushalmi, for instance, wanted to call him a tipeish? Why didn't he call him a tam?

  • No sources, so not a real answer; but perhaps for the purposes of the Haggadah we want to encourage him to ask and not to be embarrassed of his status as a "tipieish" or "tinok tipeish", so we call him by the less negative "tam".
    – Zev Spitz
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 9:07
  • The מכילתא דרבי ישמעאל also has טיפש instead of Tam, like the Yerushalmi
    – Chaim
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 20:11
  • @Chaim Not Sefaria’s copy.
    – DonielF
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 6:03
  • @DonielF I'll try to look up the version I saw it in. Though I'll mention here that the Maharal (Gevurot Hashem, Ch. 53) learns Tam as being someone with תמימות הידיעה. As he puts it: וזה חכם שאינו מתחכם בידיעה יתירה רק לשאול על הדברים כאשר יראה שינוי, וזה מגדר תמימות הידיעה שאינו מוסיף ואינו גורע
    – Chaim
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 14:08

2 Answers 2


The answer is that the basic premise of the question that there are four discrete children, and all the Midrashim refer to "the same child", is baseless.

In reality, the pashut peshat is that the four verses are synonymous. Pashtanically, for example, "what is this service to you" is not an antagonistic mockery, and it is not interpreted this way by any of the non-Midrashists, e.g. Ibn Ezra and Rashbam. Similarly, none of the other 3 verses describing the questions of the sons are interpreted by these Rishonim as referring to discrete unique questions. (Although admittedly, they are fairly bland questions anyway; it is this verse that most starkly demonstrates the difference between the peshat and the derash).

Accordingly, the starting point is simply four seemingly equivalent verses about relating the Exodus to one's children, which are then Midrashically developed into discrete answers for discrete children. It is the Midrashim themselves which develop these verses into children; not as the question implies "so many different ways to refer to the same child" that the profiles were preexisting.

Regarding the distinction between tam and tipesh, it should be noted that this is not necessarily even a Midrashic dispute; let alone one bordering on Peshat. The Midrash Sekhel Tov (Exodus 13:14) for example explicitly equates 'tam' and 'tipesh':

מה זאת. זו מדת תם, דהיינו בן טפש שאינו מבין מדעתו ולא למד מאחרים ואינו רשע וכופר, אלא בתמותו שואל מה זאת העבדה

That is, it appears that the terms are simply synonymous in context.


At the same source I quoted in Responses to the Chacham and Tam (Please go read the article I quote, it's absolutely fantastic!), he provides a fascinating answer to this question as well.

Being that in his opinion, the Yerushalmi's text was written during the time that the Beis Hamikdash was built, the Tam (good innocent boy) does not need to be addressed, because he is not asking any questions, nor will he violate any Halachos. We are only concerned about the Tipeish, who may accidentally violate Halacha. However, in the Mechilta/Haggadah version, where there is no Korban Pesach actually being brought, and we must teach all of the children about Pesach, and the Chacam is "moved from his place" by being taught the advanced theoretical Pesach laws, the regular explanation is given to the nice, simple son.

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