ג׳ במרחשון ה׳תשע״ד (October 7, 2013)

Pesaḥim 109a-b: So the Children Will Ask

Seder night is an opportunity for parents to tell the Exodus story to their children (see Shmot 13:8). If the children fall asleep, then the opportunity will be lost, so the Gemara on our daf tells us what the different Sages did in order to keep their children awake and participating (see Shmot 13:14).

Rabbi Yehuda argues that children will not enjoy the wine, so they should be kept awake by the distribution of nuts and roasted grain, which, in fact, was the custom that Rabbi Akiva followed at the Seder. Rabbi Eliezer suggested that a good method to keep the children from sleeping is hotfin matzot (literally to “grab the matzot”) during the Seder.

Several explanations are given for the custom of hotfin matzot. Some say that is means that we should hurry through the Seder and try to get to the meal when the matzot are eaten as quickly as possible so that the children will not go to sleep before they have an opportunity to ask questions. Others say that this means that we would grab matzot from the children if they begin to eat them towards the beginning of the Seder, lest the children feel that they have already eaten their meal and can go to bed. Another explanation is that the matza (and, indeed, the entire table) is removed before it is eaten in order to make the inquisitive child ask why the food is being taken away before the meal was eaten. Rabbenu Yehonatan argues that the Gemara is recommending making a game out of the matzot, and grabbing them from one another so that the children will be drawn in to the festivities. According to the Rambam it is the adults who play such games, and the joy and happiness of the celebratory meal shows the extent to which they cherish the mitzva, as well as fascinating the children with the unusual behavior, leading them to stay awake and ask questions.

Previous
Next