Guiding Fools: the Jerusalem Talmud's Haggada
The text of the Pesach Haggada is something that's been a beloved part of Jewish life for many centuries. Most of us, especially we older folk, can quote long passages from the Haggada by heart, and all of us would notice if, one year, something changed or went missing.
Without a doubt the Haggada's list of four sons along with the specific messages we're told the Torah wants them to hear is high on the list of the most familiar passages. And yet, the oldest surviving version - that found in the Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 10:4) - contains significant textual variations.
As one example, whereas our Haggada would have us tell the wise son the "laws of the Pesach: that we should not add afikoman after the Pesach", the version in the Jerusalem Talmud (JT) uses that as the response for the tam. Well, sort of. You see our version refers to the third son as "tam" - which contains some ambiguity (after all, Yakov was also called a "tam" in Beraishis 25:27, and he was no one’s fool). The JT version, however, calls that third son "tipesh" - which can mean little else besides "fool".
At any rate, here's the JT version:
טיפש מה אומר מה זאת אף את למדו הלכות הפסח שאין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן שלא יהא עומד מחבורה זו ונכנס לחבורה אחרת
"What does the fool say? 'What is this?' You should teach him the laws of Pesach that one may not add afikoman after the Pesach so that you should not leave one chabura and join with a different chabura."
The word "afikoman" has more than one possible meaning. The Bavli (Pesachim 119b) associates Rav with the "single chabura" definition. However, Shmuel understands afikoman to prohibit even eating a dessert after the korban Pesach. The JT however sticks exclusively with Rav's position.
But what, according to the JT, is the fool actually asking, and how is our response appropriate? According to the Korban Ha'Eida commentary, the fool has noticed how everyone at the table is filling themselves up on meat (specifically the meat of the korban Chagiga/Pesach), which seems different from the meals with which he's familiar. We answer by explaining that the unusual setup of the meal reflects how we can't eat korban Pesach in an "afikoman" way.
Or, perhaps, how the thoughts of our national birth and loyal acceptance of G-d's guidance and rule as represented by the Pesach are best absorbed when the eating of that meat becomes the primary focus of the evening.
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