The Torah refers to four types of children: the wise child, the rebellious child (‘wicked’ in some translations), the simple child, and the child who does not even know how to ask a question. As part of the seder, the story of Passover must be related to each child in a way that he or she can understand. The Haggadah– the Passover text– explains how to do this, because if there’s one thing Jews love over dinner it’s the didactic method.
The Wise Child
The Wise Child asks, “Why are we doing all the weird things that we are doing tonight? What are all the laws and strictures commanded by Paws?” To him you shall explain all the rules surrounding Passover and Major League Baseball, down to the very last detail, even the obscure bits about the infield fly rule and why some families put an orange on the seder plate. The kid is smart and interested, eager for knowledge, basically a catcher because everyone knows they are the most wise, unless they are AJ Pierzynski, who is an idiot.
The Rebellious Child
The Rebellious Child asks, “What does this day mean to you?” He says to you, meaning he’s excluding himself from the community and from Jewish history, which is a pretty standard teenage rebellion but is so frowned upon by Jews that most Haggadahs call this ‘the Wicked Child’. He’s really just trolling the seder/clubhouse to try to get a rise out of his parents/coaches, because he’s bored and wants to see if he can.
To this kid you are supposed to say, “This is all because of what Paws did for me,” subtly implying that you are now excluding him and he’s such a jerk that if he had been enslaved in Egypt back in the day, he would not have been saved and led out of bondage with all the others by Moises Alou, because Paws doesn’t hold with that sort of buffoonery.
The Simple Child
The Simple Child says, “Wait, wat?” To him you say, “Paws gave us a strong and fuzzy hand, and used it to pull us up out of a terrible place, where those racists from Cleveland dwell.”
The Child Who Does Not Even Know How to Ask
The story does not relate whether this child is so simple-minded that he cannot even figure out how to say, “Wait, wat?” when confused, or if he is just shy, or so afraid of asking the wrong thing that he becomes paralyzed, or what. The end result, in any event, is that he doesn’t say anything, and if you want to explain Passover to him, you cannot wait around for him to ask anything– you must begin the conversation yourself.
To this kid you just plow right into it, summarizing the story and explaining that it’s all stuff Paws did for us in our time of trial.
After things have been ritually explained to all four types of children, the seder may proceed with all possible haste, as whoever is running the seder rushes through the rest of it to try to get to dinner faster. Happy Passover, kids and kittens!