The Jewish woman’s role in the Haggadah is similar to her involvement in the Passover holiday itself: behind the scenes, perhaps, and not always mentioned by name—but there, filling a role that is absolutely critical. In the passage of the Haggadah describing the “four sons,” surely their mother is there, coaxing, nudging and corralling all of her children around the Seder table.

The passage of the four sons describes our conversations with four very different kinds of children. The Haggadah prescribes an attentive, individualized approach to each, an approach that is Women were given an extra measure of binahvery likely to have a wise Jewish mother behind it.

The Talmud states that women were given an extra measure of binah, which translates colloquially as “understanding” but signifies more specifically the capacity for differentiation and discernment. When it comes to raising children, women have much to contribute to meaningful education; as King Solomon states, “Educate a child according to his way,” i.e., his individual way.

This individualized approach to parenting is clearly apparent in the passage of the four sons, which tunes us in to the needs of each child and prompts us to respond in kind. Let’s listen:

The wise son seems like an easy child, but he too has a search all his own. “Tell me something I don’t know,” he asks, reaching out for both intellectual and spiritual challenge.

So we do, telling him about the laws of the paschal offering. We satisfy him with the detailed and nuanced scholarship of these laws, and we also tell him of their deeper meaning.

The Jews offered the paschal lamb for the first time while in Egypt, which worshipped the lamb as its deity. To do this in plain sight of the Egyptians required self-sacrificing dedication. On a mystical level, the paschal offering represents a dedication to G‑d that transcends the limitations of reason.

For the wise son, this avenue of divine service is a breath of fresh air. His wisdom, talent and disposition may be the pride and joy of his parents, but at times he feels stifled by their weight. As someone who is naturally inclined toward study and wise decisions, he has never really struggled, and thus fears that he can never really grow.

Here, in the service represented by the paschal lamb, the wise son discovers that he too can transcend his nature, blessing though it is. It is in the supra-rational that the wise son can finally find his ladder up.

The wicked son is the rebel, scoffing at the ritual his parents are involved in. But within his question we find the answer he needs.

“What is all this to you?” he asks. He is brimming with passion, but he feels alienated, disconnected from his tradition. Through his He is brimming with passion, but he feels alienatedsearch, he has hit upon a powerful truth: In addition to faith, every person must seek out a personal connection to his or her Judaism.

So we “blunt his teeth”—we draw him in and answer: “What is this to us!? This is yours as well! Come, let us help you find your own place at the Seder.”

We find the simple son dribbling his basketball past the Seder table on his way out.

“What’s this?” he asks.

Ah. This is our moment. The moment to catch his interest, the moment to impress.

“Do we have a story to tell you!” And in an instant he’s joined us, wowed by the drama of G‑d’s “strong hand,” the might and the miracles.

And for nearly every child, as well as the child in each of us, a bit of real-world action goes a long way toward making the abstract more compelling.

The fourth son, the one who does not know how to ask, is the one who most obviously needs his parents’ attention, or more specifically a mother’s sensitive touch. This is highlighted by the Haggadah’s choice of pronoun when it says, “You initiate (lit., open up) for him.” “You” is written in Hebrew as at, in the feminine form. The Haggadah recognizes women’s ability to help the silent child find his voice.

Throughout the Torah, women demonstrate their power of discernment again and again, particularly with regard to recognizing the individuality of their own children. Sarah recognized the difference between her son, Isaac, and his half-brother, Ishmael, and knew that they could not thrive side by side. Rebecca was able to see the different characters and divergent destinies of her two children, Jacob and Esau, while their father could not. And it was not Jacob, the father of the tribes, but Rachel and Leah, their mothers, who gave most of their twelve sons their names, since it was they who best knew what made each of their children unique.

Two of our mothers, Sarah and Rebecca, had to discern which child would be destined to perpetuate their fledgling faith and which would Cultivate the greatness within each child, in whichever form it assumesnot. Since the giving of the Torah, however, every Jewish child is part of the covenant from birth. Today, the Jewish mother’s task is to find and cultivate the greatness within each child, in whichever form it assumes.

The Haggadah tells us of four very different children—the prodigy, the rebel, the simple and the silent. There on the same page is their mother, the quintessential Jewish woman, learning each of their languages and teaching them to the world.

I’d like to acknowledge Shimona Tzukernik and Rochel Holzkenner for providing the impetus for this article by asking the question “Where is the woman in the Haggadah?”