The Maggid step has got to be the most commented upon section of the haggadah. Our vort on Maggid is presented by A Simple Jew. What better section of Maggid for A Simple Jew to discuss than The Simple Son.
The Lesson of the Simple Son
By A Simple Jew
The Simple Son is one of the most overlooked sons in the Haggadah. He does not have a dominant part as do the Wise Son and the Wicked Sons. Who is wise? He who learns from every person. (Pirkei Avos 4:1). Thus, there are lessons one can learn from the Simple Son. Today the term “simple” has a negative connotation. When we say that a person is “simple”, it usually means that we regard the person as naive, unsophisticated, or unintelligent.There are many chassidic stories that honor the simple person and his pure intentions.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov placed great emphasis on the quality of simplicity. He instructed his chassidim, “Do not complicate matters.This only leads one to deviate from the truth. Above all else, keep it SIMPLE!” The Torah does not give the term “simple” a negative connotation. Yaakov himself was referred to as an ish tam, a simple person. Rashi explains that ish tam, or being “simple” means that one’s mouth is like one’s heart; that he is straightforward and does not project an image which is not his true self.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, commented that the Hebrew text of the Haggadah, mah hu omer (what does he say?) can also be rendered as “what he is, he says.” He further explained that “What a person says expresses who he is.” More important than the question itself, is the reason or motivation behind the question. There is always a reason or hidden agenda why a person asks a question. A perfect example of this is the Wicked Son’s question, “Of what purpose is this work to you?” The Wicked Son is asking a rhetorical question in order to mock rather than to inquire. The Simple Son, however asks his question out of a sincere desire to learn. He does not search out the answer as does the Wise Son, he simply asks, “What is this?”
The Simple Son’s question is the first step to educating himself. He realizes that if he does not ask, he will always remain ignorant like his other brother who is known as “the Son Who Is Unable to Ask.” The answer given to the Simple Son is “With a strong hand did Hashem take us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” Why is he answered in this manner? What practical guidance is he supposed to take from this? This verse not only refers to the coercion of Pharaoh, but even more to the Jews themselves who had begun to get used to the conditions under which they lived. A person’s ability to acclimate himself to any condition can become a very negative thing. A prisoner let out of prison after many years will often find himself missing his prison cell. He accustomed himself to his structured routine and misses it when granted his freedom. Complacency prevents progress. Nothing can be gained from sitting still.
The Talmud relates, “Idleness leads to sinfulness and insanity.” (Kesubos 39b).The Simple Son is told that whereas his purity of intention is admirable and should always be retained, he should not get used to Egypt by becoming complacent with his current level. The Simple Son is encouraged to continue asking questions, continue learning, so he himself will eventually become the Wise Son. The lesson of the Simple Son can be followed by each one of us. Keep asking questions, keep learning, and don’t become complacent.
If not now, when?