Answering the Rosho – אִלּוּ הָיָה שָׁם לאֹ הָיָה נִגְאָל

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It seems rather strange that the answer given to the rosho in the Haggadah is not
the same one given in the Torah. There the Torah tells us to answer him “v’amartem
zevach Pesach hu l’Hashem…” The Torah proceeds to explain what this korban is
all about and why it was slaughtered, yet we seem to ignore the Torah’s simple
answer and instead brush him aside by telling him “had he been there then he
never would have been taken out”. Why not take the time out and give him the
same answer that the Torah gives him? Why insult him and brush him aside? Why
disenfranchise him completely? Why not explain to him the reason for the Korban
Pesach the way the Torah tells us to do? Why look for other answers?
While we must be very careful when answering a child’s questions so that our
answers don’t turn them off the Torah path, there is a time when we must strongly
rebuke the child for otherwise he may have a bad influence on the others. One
moldy strawberry left in a box of all delicious ones can easily contaminate the entire
basket. The damage one mocking child can do to others is very contagious and can
undo all the good we try to do for the others. Perhaps on a one-to-one basis we can
try to reason with him and set him straight, but when others are together with him,
he must be put in his place so that others don’t learn from his bad ways.
Schools, educators, and parents, have been struggling with this problem for a
long time. How do we deal with bad friends who may have a negative influence
on others? What is the school’s policy regarding such students? How should the
school deal with a student who exhibits the behavior of the rosho of the Haggadah?
These are not easy questions and there is no one answer that fits all. We must first
determine what the motives behind the child’s questions are. Does he want to learn,
or is his intention to mock and ridicule? When he excludes himself, he obviously
gives away his true intention. There is little you can do for a cynic who won’t listen
to reason especially when there are three other children sitting there. Sometimes he
must simply be told that “If he would have been there, he never would have been