Parsha Perspective - BO 5783
Summary and Source
Class by Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel - Chabad of Nashville


How to Talk so People will Listen

The Secret to Engaging People


How do you get your children to listen to you?

Can you get peers or co-workers to pay attention?

What is the secret to engaging people in a way that they will want to participate, and be prepared to listen?

While not every Jew comes to shul every Shabbos, or even every month, there is one tradition that somehow gained footing in the overwhelming majority of Jewish homes: the Seder.

The Hagaddah then can be a blueprint of a text that engages the reader and is persuasive.

Well, then, what is it?

In this shiur we will look at the numerous injunctions in this week’s Parsha to “tell your child”, “when your child will ask”, and how the Torah lays out a clear path to educate our children (in age, or in education) through love, persuasion, and care.

That is true of every child, no matter their nature or disposition, be they wise, wicked, simple or even if he/she doesn’t know how to ask.


             A. Rabbi Moshe Chagiz as quoted in the Rebbe’s Haggadah

We pour the cup of Elijah, for Elijah bears witness that Israel observes the mitzvah of circumcision, which is a pre-requisite to participate in the pascal sacrifice, as it is written, ‘And no uncircumcised one shall eat from it’ (Shemos 12:48)

This can be explained by the words of the Midrash that the Israelites circumcised themselves that very evening when they left Egypt and they ate from the pascal sacrifice.

  1. Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 29

Elijah, may he be remembered for good, arose and fled from the land of Israel, and he betook himself to Mount Horeb, as it is said, "And he arose, and did eat and drink". There the Holy One, blessed be He, was revealed unto him, and He said to him: "What doest thou here, Elijah?". He answered Him, saying: "I have been very zealous". (The Holy One, blessed be) He, said to him: Thou art always zealous! Thou wast zealous in Shittim on account of the immorality. Because it is said, "Phineas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was zealous with my zeal among them". Here also art thou zealous. By thy life! They shall not observe the covenant of circumcision until thou seest it (done) with thine eyes.

  1. Shemos 12:26-27

26 - And it shall be, if your sons say to you: "What is this service to you?"

27 - Then you shall say: It is a paschal sacrifice to the L-rd, who skipped over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He smote Egypt, and our houses He saved. And the people bowed down and they prostrated themselves

Shmos 13:8

And you shall tell your son on that day, saying: Because of this the L-rd wrought for me when I went out of Egypt

Shmos 13:14

And it shall be, if your son asks you in after time, saying "What is this?", then you shall say to him: With might of hand did the L-rd take us out of Egypt from the house of bondage.

Devarim 6:20

If your son ask you in time to come, saying: What are the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments which the L-rd our G‑d commanded you?

  1. Rashi on Shemos 13:5

[…] What does this service mean to?” and there Scripture is speaking about a wicked son who excludes himself from the Israelite community (by saying you, as though he does not wish to participate in the service), whilst here it states, (v. 8) “And you shall tell your son”, referring to a son who does not know how to enquire, and Scripture teaches you that you yourself must open up the conversation with Agadic explanations which attract the heart

  1. Shmos verse 14 – Rashi

WHAT IS THIS? — This is the question of a dull child who has not sufficient understanding to question very profoundly and who therefore asks in an indefinite fashion, “What is this?” In another passage it states, “[When your son asks you…], What mean the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments … [which the Lord our God hath commanded you?]” This, however, is the question of a wise son. The Torah in mentioning four different explanations of the Passover sacrifice-rite to be given by a father to his children, is speaking in reference to four different types of son: the wicked son (12:25 and in the second half of 13:8), and one who has not sufficient understanding how to ask (in the first half of 13:8), and one who asks in an indefinite manner (13:14), and one who asks in a wise fashion.

  1. Rashi on Shemos 13:5

“And you shall tell your son”, referring to a son who does not know how to enquire, and Scripture teaches you that you yourself must open up the conversation with Agadic explanations which attract the heart.

  1. Be’er Mayim Chaim

The targum [Aramaic translation] of the words, ‘Draw forth (mishchu) and take unto yourselves’ (Shemos 12:21) is Isnagidu (which shares the root with the word agadah), this implies that Agadic teachings have the capacity to draw forth a man’s heart.

Targum Onkelus of v. 13:5 

See in Chumash for original 

            H. English Letter by the Rebbe, 26 Teves 5742

[…] The most important aspect, in my opinion, in this day and age, is the lack of Kabolas Ol [acceptance of the yoke], not only of Ol Malchus Shomayim [the yoke of the sovereignty of Heaven], but also general in submission to authority, including the authority of parents at home and of teachers in school, and the authority of law and order in the street. There remains only the fear of punishment as a deterrent, but that fear has been reduced to a minimum because there has in recent years been what amounts to a breakdown of law enforcement, for reasons which need not be discussed here.

On the other hand, American children have been brought up on the spirit of independence and freedom, and on the glorification of personal prowess and smartness. It has cultivated a sense of cockiness and self-assurance to the extent that one who is bent on mischief or anti-social activity feels that one can outsmart a cop on the beat, and even a judge on the bench; and, in any event, there is little to fear in the way of punishment.

As with every health problem, physical, mental or spiritual, the cure lies not in treating the symptoms, but in attacking the cause, although the former may sometimes be necessary for relief in acute cases.

Since, as mentioned, the root of the problem is the lack of Kabolas Ol, I thought long and hard about finding a way of inducing an American child to get used to the idea of subordination to a higher authority, despite all the influence to the contrary—in the school, in the street, and even at home, where parents—not wishing to be bothered by their children—have all too often abdicated their authority, and left it to others to deal with truancy, juvenile delinquency, etc.

I came to the conclusion that there was no other way than trying to effect a basic change in the nature, through a system of discipline and obedience to rules which she/he can be induced to get accustomed to.

  1. Ma’amorei Admur Hazaken 5568 p. 104

Loose translation

The verse states, “Train a lad in the way he ought to go” (Proverbs 22:6)

The concept of education, for instance in the education of Torah, the father must do something novel to draw the child in, so that he may go to the teacher and study.

The novelty consists of the father expressing an extra measure of love toward his son and goes together with him or gives him sweets to excite him.

This then is the idea of chinuch, in the Holy tongue, i.e., the process of winning over the child and drawing him in with love.

  1. Likkutei Sichos vol. 19 p. 39

Loose translation and synopsis

Why does the mitzvah of Torah study break from the norm of other mitzvos which are only applicable to children as a rabbinic injunction to educate them, whilst Torah study has some application to children even biblically. -?-

The answer is because most other mitzvos are intended to effect a purification and elevation of the material objects they employ in the physical world, whereas Torah study is about the student experiencing a state of oneness with the wisdom of the Torah and for him to lead his life in accordance with that wisdom, rather than how his eye sees the world around him, and so that he may pursue and attain the wisdom of the Almighty which is absorbed in the Torah.

  1. Hisvaaduyos 5746 vol. 3 p. 394

Loose translation and synopsis

It is the custom of righteous Jewish mothers to tell their children stories from the Torah rather than stories from the papers and the news. And they do so with passion and excitement, to the point that the stories come to life, which causes the children to receive a proper education which will continue to influence them throughout their life.