web analytics
September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

The Hidden Message Of The Four Children

Haggadah used at the Passover Seder

Haggadah used at the Passover Seder
Photo Credit: Hadas Parush/flash 90

The literal approach to the Haggadah’s four children is straightforward. On four different occasions, the Torah describes questions asked by children about Passover. Based on the language of the question, the author of the Haggadah labels each of them. One questioner is described as wise, the second rebellious, the third simple, and the fourth not even knowing how to ask. And the Haggadah, basing itself on the Torah text, offers answers to suit the specific educational needs of each child. But if we go beyond the literal approach, hidden messages emerge.

While this section of the Haggadah is associated with youngsters, is it not possible that the children referred to here include adults of all ages? After all, no matter how old we are, we are all children—children of our parents and children of God.

From this perspective, the message of the four children is that every Jew has his or her place in Judaism. The challenge is to have different types of Jews seated around the Seder table in open respectful dialogue, each contributing to the Seder discussion, each exhibiting love for the other. It also reminds us that we have much to learn from everyone – this realization is what truly makes us wise. In the words of Ben Zoma, who is mentioned just before this section in the Hagaddah, “Who is wise? One who learns from each person” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

Another approach to the four children: Perhaps they are not four separate individuals? After all, no one is completely wise, totally rebellious, perfectly simple, or absolutely unable to ask. Rather, the four children are really one individual in whom appear all these elements: wisdom, rebelliousness, simplicity and silence.

The message: as we sit opposite each other at the Seder, we ought to recognize that everyone has strengths, represented for example by the hacham (the wise child), and weaknesses, represented, for example by the rasha (the rebellious child). The challenge is not to allow the weaknesses we know to exist within ourselves to destroy our self-image. For that matter, neither should we allow the weaknesses we see in others to destroy our relationship with them. As opposed to our first hidden message that teaches integration, this approach teaches us that there are times when weaknesses should be set aside in order to continue on.

A final thought: Perhaps the most important child is none of the four but rather the fifth, the one who is not mentioned, the one who is not even at the Seder table. It was Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits who once quipped: “Who is a Jew? One whose grandchildren are Jewish.” The sad reality for most Jews is that their grandchildren are not Jewish or will not be.

The message at the Seder is to reach out to that fifth child. Maybe that’s why we open the door for Eliyahu HaNavi. It’s Eliyahu, according to the Prophets, who returns the hearts of children to their parents (Malachi 3:23‑24).

About the Author: Rabbi Avi Weiss is founder and president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “The Hidden Message Of The Four Children”

  1. Gary Harper says:

    Very insightful.

    This is also the process of growth. One who does not know how to ask, should be encouraged in the ways of asking. This teaches others to guide. One who is simple of outlook is often innocent, and this should be respected and emulated. This one gets to the core of an issue immediately. The rebellious one asks the hard questions, and this challenge leads both the questioner and the responder to grow, and shows others that challenges are good, in their own way, as they lead to growth.

    And the wise child, is the one who knows that he is not sure how to ask, but asks anyway; asks only a few hard questions, that have simple answers, that all should be able to understand; and has a bit of rebellion in him, or he would not need to challenge his teacher to rise to a proper defense of Torah.

    The wise child knows that he is all four children in one; and also, that he will always be a simple, rebellious child who is not fully sure how to ask.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Finance Minister Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid party.
Lapid Won’t Let Defense Demands Turn Into ‘Turkish Bazaar’
Latest Judaism Stories
15th century Book of the Torah

This week’s parsha offers a new covenant; a covenant that speaks to national life unlike any other

Leff-091214

All Jews are inherently righteous and that is why we all have a portion in the World to Come.

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

If mourning is incompatible with Yom Tov, why is it not incompatible with Shabbat?

Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

Since it is a Rabbinic prohibition we may follow the more lenient opinion.

How can the Torah expect me today, thousands of years after the mitzvahs were given, to view each mitzvah as if I’m fulfilling it for the first time?

Torah isn’t a theological treatise or a metaphysical system but a series of stories linked over time

In contrast to her Eicha-like lamentations of the previous hour or more, however, my youngest was now grinning from ear-to-ear.

An Astonishing Miracle
‘Why Bring the Infants to Hakhel?’
(Chagigah 3a)

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

e are in a time of serious crisis and must go beyond our present levels of chesed.

According to Ibn Ezra, the Torah was stressing through this covenant that hypocrisy was forbidden.

“Tony said that the code in most places in the U.S. is at least 36 inches for a residential guardrail,” replied Mr. Braun. “Some make it higher, 42, or even 52 inches for high porches. What is the required height according to halacha?”

Simcha is total; sahs is God’s joy in protecting us even when we are most vulnerable.

Not only do we accept You as our King, it is our greatest desire that the name of Your Kingdom be spread throughout the entire universe.

More Articles from Rabbi Avi Weiss
Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of theYeshivat Chovevei Torah. Rabbi Asher Lopatin will be replacing him as head of the school.

Simcha is total; sahs is God’s joy in protecting us even when we are most vulnerable.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

the test of moral integrity truly presents itself when one faces difficult situations.

Of paramount importance is that both the king and his people realize that while he is the leader, he is still a subject of God.

Rabbinic law is pivotal but it’s important to understand which laws are rabbinic and which biblical.

Israel is the only place where we have the potential to fulfill our mandate as the chosen people.

Rav Kook of blessed memory, who said that no matter where a Jew is born, he is born in Israel.

One must act as if everything depends on us and pray as if everything depends on God.

When taking any major step in life it is a good idea to carefully re-evaluate one’s past.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-hidden-message-of-the-four-children/2014/04/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: