Tidbits from the Torah Related to Pesach (Passover)

Tidbits from the Torah related to Passover


There are a couple of questions commonly asked by those who are new to the concept of Passover and the Seder. The two issues I will address today is the Tradition of not eating Rice on Passover, and the Biblical source for the mention of the four sons in the Haggadah.

First, there is a noticeable difference between how the Ashkenazi and S’fardic Jews celebrate the Pesach Seder. The Ashkenazi Jew does not eat rice or legumes, whereas the S’fardi Jew does. Therefore, it is more difficult for an Ashkenazi Jew to visit a S’fardi friend, but the S’fardi can easily visit the Ashkenazi. Why is this so?

There are five types of grain that are typically involved in making matzah for the first night of Passover; wheat, oats, barley, spelt, and rye. These types of grain become chametz if left in contact with water for 18 minutes. Rice and other legumes do not become chametz even though flour made from them may rise; it is not considered chametz. Therefore, according to the Torah, we may eat legumes and rice on Pesach.

Second, the Biblical sources for the four sons mentioned in the Haggadah are as follows:

The wise son is found in Deuteronomy 6:20-23:

“If your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What are the testimonies, the statutes, and the ordinances, which the L-rd our G-d has commanded you?’ You shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd took us out of Egypt with a strong hand. And the L-rd gave signs and wonders, great and terrible, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon his entire household, before our eyes. And He brought us out of there, in order that He might bring us and give us the land which He swore to our fathers…’”

The wicked son is addressed in Exodus 12:26-27. Note the sarcasm in his tone, removing himself from this matter:

“And it will come to pass if your children say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’ “You shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the L-rd, for He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, and He saved our houses.’”

The simple son’s question, and the appropriate simplistic response, is in Exodus 13:14:

“And it will come to pass if your son asks you in the future, saying ‘What is this?’ You shall say to him, ‘With a mighty hand did the L-rd take us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.’”

The son with whom the parent must initiate the discussion is addressed in Exodus 13:8:

“And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘Because of this, the L-rd did [this] for me when I went out of Egypt.”

I hope you learned something new and that you may use this new knowledge to glorify G-d. May we never forget what the L-rd has done and may we honor Him with our lives.

Shalom v’brachas,

Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart