D'varim - LLJL Committee Meeting - 7/21/15 (with notes)

Passover Haggadah, The 4 Sons

Corresponding to four sons did the Torah speak; one [who is] wise, one [who is] evil, one who is innocent and one who doesn't know to ask.

  • What does the wise [son] say? "'What are these testimonies, statutes and judgments that the Lord our God commanded you?' (Deuteronomy 20:6)" And accordingly you will say to him, as per the laws of the Pesach sacrifice, "We may not eat an afikoman [a dessert or other foods eaten after the meal] after [we are finished eating] the Pesach sacrifice. (Mishnah Pesachim 10:8)"
  • What does the evil [son] say? "'What is this worship to you?' (Exodus 12:26)" 'To you' and not 'to him.' And since he excluded himself from the collective, he denied a principle [of the Jewish faith]. And accordingly, you will blunt his teeth and say to him, "'For the sake of this, did the Lord do [this] for me in my going out of Egypt' (Exodus 13:8)." 'For me' and not 'for him.' If he had been there, he would not have been saved.
  • What does the innocent [son] say? "'What is this?' (Exodus13:14)" And you will say to him, "'With the strength of [His] hand did the Lord take us out from Egypt, from the house of slaves' (Exodus 13:14).'"
  • And [regarding] the one who doesn't know to ask, you will open [the conversation] for him. As it is stated (Exodus 13:8), "And you will speak to your your son on that day saying, for the sake of this, did the Lord do [this] for me in my going out of Egypt."

What are the most important things we notice here?

Answer: Opportunity to ask questions and the recognition that sometimes it's more than just the question

In our Torah portion this week, D'varim, we see the following text as Moses reiterates the judicial structure he set in place in the Torah portion Yitro. He explains what these people were to do.

(טז) וָאֲצַוֶּה֙ אֶת־שֹׁ֣פְטֵיכֶ֔ם בָּעֵ֥ת הַהִ֖וא לֵאמֹ֑ר שָׁמֹ֤עַ בֵּין־אֲחֵיכֶם֙ וּשְׁפַטְתֶּ֣ם צֶ֔דֶק בֵּֽין־אִ֥ישׁ וּבֵין־אָחִ֖יו וּבֵ֥ין גֵּרֽוֹ׃

(16) And I charged your judges at that time, saying: ‘Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.

"Within Jewish law, however, ' hearing' means even more. If, for instance, one appearing before a judge wishes to bring more evidence or enlarge one's arguments, one must be permitted to do so. A judge must be patient even if the parties are long-winded or the case is tedious. Disputants must not be cut off; they should be heard to the end without intermission. The judge should also ask questions, seeking to 'go behind words' and 'get the truth.' 'Hearing' means paying attention to nuances, inflections, and possible manipulations of facts." -- Fields, 100

There is also a discussion about eyes and seeing -- need to be impartial and give everyone fair glances regardless of appearance or status. It may seem to show favoritism.

The story is told that once the Baal Shem Tov, the great Chasidic teacher, was leading a prayer service. Within the congregation there was a simple shepherd boy, who could barely read. He didn't know any of the prayers. But as the Baal Shem Tov led the congregation, the boy was so moved that he wanted to pray. Instead of the words of the prayers, he began to recite the letters of the alef-bet. He said, "Oh God, I don't know the words of the prayers, I only know all these letters. Please, God, take these letters and arrange them into the right order to make the right words." The Baal Shem Tov heard the boy's words and stopped all the prayers. "Because of the simple words of this boy," he said, "all of our prayers will be heard in the highest reaches of Heaven."

--Adapted by Rabbi Phyllis Sommer

As, we, in our quest for lifelong Jewish learning within the walls of Temple Beth-El, give space for questions and listen to those who may not ask or be asking something else. May we amplify learning and community through love and lessons.