Four Children

Listen/watch song on YouTube

Composition and audio © Alexander Massey 15 February 2014

The fun of this song is all in the lyrics (printed below). First, the chorus loses more words each time it happens, and, by doing so, gradually reveals the the differences between the four children:

  • In Chorus 2, the Wise child talks about ‘us’, includes him/herself as part of the seder and story, and wants, as the next generation, to receive and learn the tradition and its meanings.
  • In Chorus 3, the Wicked child leaves out the second line, excluding him/herself from being part of the seder or story, rejecting both connection to the people, and the values that the story teaches.
  • More words are removed in Chorus 4, so that the Simple child doesn’t even refer to the story, doesn’t seem to understand anything about what is going on, but is open to learning.
  • In Chorus 5 (Silent child), the lyrics disappear completely.

Second, each verse has a pun, sometimes English, sometimes between the Hebrew and English, that describes each child:

  • Verse 2, for the Wise child, puns with “whys”.
  • Verse 3, for the Wicked (Heb. rasha) child, puns with “rasher”.
  • Verse 4, for the Simple (Heb. tam) child, puns with “time”.
  • Verse 5, for the Silent child, puns with “sigh lent”. (The absence of the Chorus lyrics afterwards also means that we hear accompanying voice part singing the word ‘dumb’.)
The Lyrics

What is this story to you?
And what does our God command us to do?

1. Wise, wicked, simple, silent – what’s in a label?
Night of questions, night of wonders – all are welcome at our table.

What is this story to you?
And what does our God command us to do?

2. The first child looked for answers with touch, smell, taste, ears and eyes
For the who, how, when, where, whats and whys.

What is this story to you?
And what does our God command us to do?

3. The second child spoke like a wicked gate crasher;
His question seemed a whole lot rasher.

What is this story to you?
[SILENCE]

4. The third child thought the season had no reason or rhyme,
And wondered why Pesach couldn’t be a simple time.

What is this? [SILENCE]
[SILENCE]

5. The fourth child’s sigh lent mystery. Was she awed, bored or afraid?
She didn’t ask a question, and still she stayed …

[SILENCE]

6. Wise, wicked, simple, silent – what’s in a label?
Night of questions, night of wonders – all are welcome at our table.

What is this story to you?
And what does our God command us to do?

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