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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Kids and the 4 Cups (Part 1: Facts)

This audio shiur (click for facts- 7 min) was given and recorded by REF. Except for the audio instead of text, this topic will be posted in the same step-by-step fashion as the other shiurim on the Blogoshiur.
In order to simplify and allow for printing we have written the facts below. The remaining posts will be audio only.  Chag Sameach!

The gemara in psachim 108b-109a discusses the obligation of children in the 4 cups of wine.
ת"ר הכל חייבין בארבעה כוסות הללו אחד אנשים ואחד נשים ואחד תינוקות א"ר יהודה וכי מה תועלת יש לתינוקות ביין אלא מחלקין להן קליות ואגוזין בערב פסח כדי שלא ישנו וישאלו
The Tanna Kamma (TK) holds that all are obligated in the 4 cups: men, women and children.
Rabbi Yehuda (RY) argues "what benefit is there in giving children wine?". Rather he suggests that we give them sweets and nuts on erev pesach so that they do not go to sleep and so that they will ask.

Why are children included according to the TK? Rashbam explains because they too were redeemed.
What is RY's argument?

Rashbam learns that he is arguing that since children are exempt from all mitzvos, they cannot be obligated in the 4 cups of wine.

The Ran (dapei harif 23b, top line) interprets the TK's obligation as stemming from chinuch, a father's obligation to train/teach his kids. He explains RY's argument that you cannot train kids in the 4 cups because for them it is not דרך חירות, an expression of freedom, being that they do not take pleasure and שמחה from drinking wine.

How can we define the machlokes between TK and RY according to Rashbam and according to the Ran?  What questions can we ask that will allow us to approach this sugya?


  1. A thought:

    The Rashbam explains that children are exempt from mitzvos and therefore they cannot be obligted in daled cosos. However, daled cosos is a mitzvah asei she'hazman grama, which women are also generally not obligated in. The gemara at the top of 108b explains that they are chayev because they too were included in the nes (though there's a question as to what exactly that means). If children too were redeemed why aren't they chayev just like women are? How come R' Yehuda agrees that women are chayev but children are not according to the Rashbam's explanation?

  2. Good question. Can anyone (Matt included) be machalek between women and children in this regard?

  3. It seems that one practical difference is that women are chayev in some mitzvos whereas children are not chayev in anything at all (besides daled cosos, maybe). Maybe this shows that in general women are bar chiyuvei of mitzvos however by mitzvos asei she'hazman grama they have a special petur. Intrinsically, they are chayev but the Torah gave them a petur for whatever reason. However, it would seem that children are simply not chayev in mitzvos at all. So practically the fact is that women and children do not have to perform certain mitzvos but the source of this is different. Children don't have to do these mitzvos because they are simply not chayev whereas women are intrinsically chayev but have a petur.

  4. Correct. Excellent! So where does that lead us insofar as our sugya?

  5. Well, I think this does a good job of explaining R' Yehuda's shitah as explained by the Rashbam, though I still have no idea what the relevance is of giving the kids candy and nuts. In this framework, while it may be true that children were included in the geulah the bottom line is they are not bar chiyuvei in mitzvos and cannot be obligated in daled cosos. However, since women are intrinsically chayev, because they were included in the nes of yetzias mitzrayim, the Torah did not extend to them the usual petur of a mitzvah asei she'hazman grama. Apparently, the TK must understood the relationship between children and obligation in mitzvos differently. I'm toying with an idea or two about how he would formulate this relationship. To be continued...

  6. Good for RY. Keep us posted on TK.

    1. Maybe the TK agrees that by other mitzvos the bar chiyuvim are adults (men and women) however by daled cosos the bar chiyuvei were defined b'toras the geulah of yetzias mitzrayim. The nation as it was redeemed is mechayev in daled cosos. This includes men, women and children. I think this reads fairly well with the TK's formulation "ha'kol chayevin ... echad anashim v'echam nashim v'echad tinokos".

      One way of looking at the machlokus is that daled cosos is an expression of cherus and in theory everyone who was involved in the cherus should be chayev in the mitzvah. The question is how this was formulated halachically. The TK holds that the Torah broke with its usual pattern and established a new gavra of the mitzvah - the nation as it was redeemed. RY holds that the Torah stuck with adults as bar chiyuvim but removed peturim that would normally not obligate a group (women) in the mitzvah.

      Maybe this also explains RY's idea of giving the kids candy and nuts. He agrees that philosophically children were redeemed and should be involved in expressing cherus however he wasn't willing to buy halachically establishing a new bar chiyuv in this mitzvah. However, by giving children candy and nuts their curiosity will be aroused and they will participate on seder night, thereby being included in the discussion of cherus. I'm not so sure about this last part though.

    2. Interesting approach. But, bottom line, how can you obligate kids who lack daas in a mitzvah?

    3. Isn't that a question on the facts themselves?

    4. you need to either 1) give a clear rationale for how children with no halachic daas are obligated in this mitzva or 2) "make a move"

  7. I'm going in order and havent yet listened to Post #2, so pardon me if my comments have already been addressed.

    I have a few questions. Acc to the Rashbam, if the mechayev for kids acc to the TK is "af hem nigalu", does he also hold that way for other mitzvos, e.g., megilla, ner chanukah, etc. (where they were also part of the redemption and salvation)-- If not, it may be instructive to see what is the difference. (....from a methodology standpoint, I am wondering if searching for this kind of contrast might be going too far afield at this point, but I'm not sure and would love to hear your feedback on that.).

    I am also wondering what kind of mechayev "af hem nigalu" is at all. It seems like a strange mechayev. The child's chiyuv seems to be an extension of the man's chiyuv, but is it accurate to say that a man is technically chayev because he was part of the geula? (maybe there's a philosophical idea there behind the mitzva, but is that the actual mechayev?)

    One more Q : Acc to the Ran, what kind of petur from chinuch is it that they wont be happy doing it? I'm sure there are lots of actions they are chayev to do via chinuch that they aren't happy about. If the answer is that this mitzva is different because lack of happiness is not cherus so the lack of happiness somehow undermines the chinuch-based-mechayev, then I would think that on the same token a man who does not enjoy wine would also be patur, but I dont think that is the case.

    One observation-- I think the Rashbam is smoother in at least one regard in that the TK says "HACOL chayavim..." and seems to put them all in one category-- it sounds to me like he is equating them from a mechayev standpoint, not just a coincidental fact that they are all chayav. The Ran seems to attribute 2 separate mechayvim tot he TK's position.

    ...sorry for loading on the Qs :)

    1. 1. I dont think there is such a thing by other mitzvos. This suggests there is something unique going on here. It may be a clue.

      2. maybe...

      3. Good q. Can someone (Joey included) differentiate between a child and a man who doesnt enjoy wine?

      4. good observation

    2. You asked an interesting question regarding investigating whether the rashbam's position implying an obligating on children is unique to this situation or not "from a methodology standpoint, I am wondering if searching for this kind of contrast might be going too far afield at this point?"

      we think you do need to pursue the factual information of whether it is a unique phenomenon or a more general one. this information directly affects the approach you will take to the svara. This might require you spending time looking up the relevant sources or asking someone a question, but it needs to be done.

      once you have ascertained that it is unique to the 4 cups, you should return to trying to understand the 4 cups on a deeper level. if you start going into the other areas more in depth, you are getting lost on a tangent. just go into them enough to get the fact, then focus on the 4 cups.


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