web analytics
January 26, 2015 / 6 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


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
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Jan. 20, 2014.
Canada’s Harper Govt to Introduce Anti-Terror Legislation by Week’s End
Latest Judaism Stories
Torah-Hakehillah-121914

Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, a Ram at Yeshivat Otniel, notes that the verse is suggesting that retelling the story of the Exodus is so important that Hashem is performing ever-greater miracles specifically so that parents can tell their stories to future generations.

Parshat Bo

Before performing the 10th plague God makes a fundamental argument about the ultimate nature of justice.

Daf-Yomi-logo

Life Before The Printed Word
‘A Revi’is Of Blood’
(Yevamos 114a-b)

The-Shmuz

How is it possible that the clothing was more valuable to them than gold or silver?

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

“It means that the disqualification of relatives as witnesses is a procedural issue, not a question of honesty,” explained Rabbi Dayan.

Property ownership is an extremely important and fundamental right and principle according to the Torah.

The tenderest description of the husband/wife relationship is “re’im v’ahuvim/loving, kind friends”

And if a person can take steps to perform the mitzvah, he should do so (even if he won’t be held accountable for not performing it due to circumstances beyond his control).

Suddenly, she turns to me and says, “B’emet, I need to thank you, you made me excited to come back to Israel.”

Pesach is called “zikaron,” a Biblical term used describing an object eliciting a certain memory

Recouping $ and assets from Germans and Swiss for their Holocaust actions is rooted in the Exodus

Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.

I think that we have to follow the approach of the Tannaim and Amoraim. They followed the latest scientific developments of their time.

Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of Britain’s men is not too great a price to pay.

More Articles from Rabbi Avi Weiss
Weiss-012315

In fact, wherever you see soldiers in Paris today, you pretty much know you’re near Jewish site

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Recouping $ and assets from Germans and Swiss for their Holocaust actions is rooted in the Exodus

The plagues don’t reveal a God of vengeance but of compassion; after each triplet Egypt can repent

“He looked this way and that way” means Moses looked within to see whether he was Egyptian or Jewish

When Yaakov asks “Who are these?” he’s means “Do my grandchildren identify as Egyptians or Jews?”

Though we Jews have deep obligations to all people our obligation to our fellow Jew is unique.

The dreams revealed their differences: The butler was active; the baker completely passive.

Benno Yaakov, the German Jewish commentator, posits Yaakov’s limping caused Eisav’s change of heart.

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: