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Monday, April 9, 2012

Kids and the 4 Cups (Part 2: Questions and Methodology)

Questions and Methodology (6 min)


  1. After reviewing the gemara some more, I am working on an approach. Still in its infancy, and it may be a stretch, but here are some initial, rough thoughts.

    (Before getting to the Rishonim:) One thing that stands out to me as out of place is RY's first statement of "v'chi ma toeles"? that is not a typical response to a statement that someone is chayiv in a mitzva. In the halachic system, lack of benefit does not undermine the technical requirement of a mitzva. An argument over what benefit an action has is better suited for an assessment of an action that attempts to achieve a certain type of experience (or perhaps for the philosophical realm). Therefore, I think the TK's statement should not be read to mean that they are "chayiv" in the usual sense of the word (i.e., we’re not talking about a mitzva per se, but something else). To support this, I would also point to 2 other things: 1) we are talking about tinokos, not even k'tanim (as REF pointed out), so it seems impossible to say that we are in the realm of mitzva per se; and 2) the three groups - men, women, tinokos- are all lumped together as one in the TK’s statement, and I'd posit that the TK is solely pointing to some common denominator among them all that is "requiring" this activity of the 4 cosos (and that his point here is separate from the technical mechayiv that men and women (but probably not tinokos) have).
    So what is the impetus that is common to all 3 that would even make a tinok "chayiv"? ….It is "af hem beoso hanes" (or "af hem nigalu"). What that is exactly, I am not sure yet, but I can see the approach that some form of recognition of geula/freedom has to be experienced by everyone. Even a tinok can have some sense of being free and it is imperative on this night that everyone who benefited from the geula have some sort of recognition (at least on their own level).

    I’d say that the argument between RY and TK is very narrow. RY agrees with the TK's basic idea above, but then argues with the TK on a more narrow scale indicating that the experience of drinking wine for a child is a poor method of accomplishing this EXPERIENTIAL goal. If you treat the night differently for them and help them stay up by giving them treats, encouraging them to ask, etc., then that is a much more effective method. The lack of benefit with the TK's method undermines the general impetus that both RY and TK would agree is necessary on this night. (I do not know how the TK would respond to this, but he seems to put a priority on keeping the activity within the recognized form of the mitzvah (drinking wine)).
    (continued in next comment)

    1. Good approach. We think it has to be more specific and halachik though. If not chayiv in the usual sense of the word, what then? You need to develop your thoughts a little more.

  2. I also think that the Rashbam and Ran could both agree to the above understanding of the gemara. First, in reading the Ran, I would question whether he is really saying the mechayev is chinuch per se. This is a tinok we are talking about. And his lashon does not clearly indicate mitzvas chinuch per se- he says that this manner is not "shayach lechancehem bemitzvos". I think that he is using the term chinuch in the general term of the best way to impart the system of mitzvos to your children, including tinokos (e.g., if you gave your tinok a poor impression of the mitzvos because you incorporated negative experiences with the activity you forced them to do, then that would be a poor way to be mechanech them-- the converse does not mean that you have a positive requirement from mitzvas chinuch to have your tinok perform certain activities). I would say that the Ran can agree that the impetus is af hem beoso hanes, but as I said earlier, the experience of drinking wine fails in its objective since it does not accomplish cherus if you are forcing a child to do an unpleasant activity.
    I think the Rashbam, in explaining RY, is saying something different (though I think the Ran and Rashbam are not so far apart fundamentally). It might be along the lines of the following: RY’s objection to TK is that since the tinok is patur m’mitzvos, this kind of activity does not even get out of the gate as a potentially good means for the tinok. (he might say that for a katan she’hegiya l’chinuch, drinking wine might be a viable – and perhaps necessary- choice, but theres not enough here for me to really say so). As I mentioned earlier, perhaps the TK insists on 4 cosos even for the tinok since he wants to keep the activity within the recognized form of the mitzvah (drinking wine), but I don’t know why yet.

    1. We think it's difficult to say that the Ran doesnt really mean chinuch. Rather we think he means normal chinuch and learns tinokos as lav davka- it means kids at chinuch age.

    2. Please explain on what basis you disagree re whether the Ran is referring to chinuch per se- intuitively? do you think my reading of it is flawed?
      Also, will u be explaining how you came to the conclusion that tinokos is lav davka? It's not like this is the term that is usually used for children who are higiya l'chinuch.

    3. 1. He uses the term chinuch.
      2. If below chinuch age, then it's not shayach to do chinuch inherently- they're not fit. There's no need for the cheirus thing.

      Maybe to explain tinokos. If you deny the cheirus problem, then the age for chinuch for drinking is very young - tinokos.


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