Who Knows One?
How does one transmit basic theology in a fun manner to tired seder guests? The answer is–with song. Many see this as one of the purposes of the Nirtzah, the final section of the Haggadah. With the exception of “One Kid” (Chad Gad’ya), perhaps the best known song of Nirtzah is “Who Knows One?” (Echad Mee Yo’day’ah?)
The song begins with the question, “Who knows one?” and the response, “I know one, one is our God of the heavens and the earth.” This is followed by “Who knows two? Two are the tablets of the law, and one is our God of the heavens and the earth.” The song continues until verse thirteen, and with each additional number, the preceding responses are repeated. The final complete stanza is as follows:
Who knows thirteen?
I know thirteen. Thirteen are the attributes of God’s mercy. Twelve are the Tribes of Israel, Eleven are the stars in Joseph’s dream. Ten are the holy Commandments. Nine are the months until a baby is born. Eight are the days until the brit milah (circumcision). Seven are the days of the week. Six are the tracts of the Mishnah. Five are the books of the Torah. Four are the mothers (matriarchs), and three are the fathers (patriarchs), and two are the tablets of the law. And one is our God of the heaven and the earth.
Although “Who Knows One” presents some basic Jewish facts (the holy books, the matriarchs and the patriarchs, etc.), its recurring verse, “One is our God of the heavens and the earth,” is a poetic rendition of Judaism’s most fundamental prayer: Sh’ma Yis’ra’el A’doh’nai Eh’lo’hay’nu A’doh’nai Echad. “Hear O Israel, the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One” Deuteronomy 6:4).