Halacha for Tuesday 4 Nissan 5779 April 9 2019

“And You Shall Tell Your Son”

Question: Does one fulfill the Mitzvah of “And you shall tell your son” on the Seder night by recounting the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt to his daughters or does only one who tells this over to one’s sons fulfill this Mitzvah?

Answer: The Torah states regarding the Mitzvah of teaching one’s children about the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt on the night of Pesach, “And you shall tell your son.” We therefore customarily have the children recite the “Four Questions” at which point the father answers each one based on his level of intelligence about the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt, whether by merely reading the Haggadah or by adding other thoughts as well. However, one must indeed wonder whether or not the primary Mitzvah of “Telling your son” applies to one’s daughters, for the Torah states explicitly, “And you shall tell your son,” which would seem to imply that daughters are not included in this Mitzvah. Nevertheless, there is room to claim that when the Torah writes “your son,” this is not meant to exclude one’s daughters; rather, the Torah chose a general phrase which can be understood as including daughters as well (i.e. the word “son” is actually interchangeable with the word “child”).

Maran zt”l deals with this matter at length in his Responsa Chazon Ovadia on the laws of Pesach (Chapter 21) and he offers a proof that one’s daughters are also included in this Mitzvah, for the Terumat Ha’Deshen writes that one may not give his small child Matzah on Erev Pesach. The reason for this is in order for the Matzah to be new to the child on the night of Pesach so that it will be possible to speak to him about the Mitzvah of Matzah at the Seder (as the Haggadah states, “This only means when Matzah and Maror are placed before you”). The Magen Avraham comments on the words of the Terumat Ha’Deshen that the same prohibition to give one’s child Matzah on Erev Pesach would apply to one’s daughter so that the Matzah will be new for her as well. This proves that one’s daughters are also included in the Mitzvah of “And you shall tell your son.”

He proceeds to bring another proof from what our Sages (Pesachim 116a) tell us: “If one’s son is wise enough to ask these questions on his own, he should do so and his father should answer him. If the son is not wise enough, one’s wife should ask him.” If so, the Gemara is clearly teaching us that when the Torah writes “And you shall tell your son,” it does not mean to exclude women and girls; rather, they are also included in this Mitzvah, as we see that if one does not have a child who can ask him these questions, his wife asks him instead and he responds. We can imply that the primary Mitzvah is recounting the story of the Exodus from Egypt either to one’s sons, daughters, or wife.

Likewise, it seems logical not to differentiate between boys and girls regarding the Mitzvah to recount the Exodus since the point of this Mitzvah is to instill within the hearts of the Jewish nation’s youth our belief in Hashem who redeemed us from Egypt, made us His chosen nation, and sanctified us with His commandments. Indeed, the faith of the Jewish nation’s girls and women has proven to be much more resilient through the ages than that of the boys and men, as our Sages taught that we were redeemed from Egypt in the merit of righteous women, as they clung harder to their belief in Hashem. Throughout the generations, whenever the Jewish nation was persecuted and subjected to harsh trials and tribulations, Jewish women remained firmer in their faith in Hashem than men. The Gemara delineates this in several places.

Summary: One’s daughters are also included in the Mitzvah of “And you shall tell your son.” One should therefore recount to them the story of the Exodus from Egypt as broadly as possible in order to fulfill this Torah commandment on the night of Pesach. It is forbidden to focus solely on one’s sons while recounting the story of the Exodus to the exclusion of one’s daughters.

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