What is the meaning of Chad Gadya, the last song we sing at the Seder?
The Medrash ( Bereshis Rabba 38) tells us the following incident:
Terach, the father of our forefather Avraham, used to make and sell idols.
One day, Terach asked Avraham to mind the store while he was out. A man
came into the store and told Avraham that he wished to worship an idol.
Avraham asked him how old he was. When the man mentioned that he was
around 50 or 60 years old, Avraham commented "Oh my - here you are so many
years old and you want to worship an idol that is but a day old!" The man
left the store ashamed.
On another occasion, a woman came into the store with a large flour
offering she wanted to leave for the idols. After she left, Avraham picked
up a stick, smashed all of the idols in the store except for the largest
one, and placed the stick in the hands of this idol. Terach returned to
the store to find all of his wares destroyed. He asked Avraham who caused
all the damage. Avraham
explained that a woman brought an offering into the store, and each idol
wanted to be the first to
partake of the offering. The largest idol, however, took a stick and
smashed all of the other idols
so that he would be the one to eat the offering. Terach was upset with
this response. "How can
you be so cruel to me? Do you think the idols can really talk, move or
understand! " Avraham
responded "Don't you hear what you are saying about these idols!"
Terach, who was not happy with this disobedience, took Avraham to the
great King Nimrod.
Nimrod said to Avraham "If you will not worship these idols, then you
should worship fire."
Avraham responded that if anything he should worship water, as water
extinguishes fire. Nimrod
then told Avraham to worship water. Avraham responded that as clouds are
really water that has
been drawn into the heavens, he should worship clouds. Nimrod told Avraham
to worship clouds.
Avraham replied being that the air has power to move clouds via the wind,
he should worship the air. Nimrod then instructed Avraham to worship the
air. Avraham pointed out that as man has the ability to retain air
although he is full of holes, man should be the object of worship. At this
point, Nimrod was no longer amused by all the responses. He told
Avraham "You are speaking empty and meaningless words. I worship only
fire, and I will therefore cast you into fire, and let the G-d who you
worship save you." Avraham was cast into fire and miraculously saved by
According to the Maharal, the songs we sing at the end of the Seder are
part of Hallel - our
praises of G-d. On the Seder night, we recall how in Egypt, the Jews were
spared from the tenth
plague, Makas Bechoros - The Death of the First Born, which occurred on
the night that the Jews
were eating the special offering they had been commanded to bring. This
offering was to be either a lamb or kid - that which the Egyptians
worshipped. Yet, the Egyptians did not harm the Jews for doing this
heretical act. The Jews were saved from this threat, and they were saved
from the final plague. The Torah (Sh'mos 12:42) tells us that this night
was a night of "protection for all the children of Israel for their
On this night of protection, we conclude our Seder with a dialogue similar
to that which Avraham
had with Nimrod. We start with the little kid, the object of worship of
Egypt. But a cat can eat a
kid, and a dog can bite a cat, and a stick can smite a dog, etc.. Each of
these items which people
have worshipped has a superior. The conclusion of the song, and the
conclusion of the Seder as
well, is a conclusion that we all know, and that we sing with great
thanks: G-d is supreme, and
He is the One that is our protector.