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The Four Sons

By Tzvi Fishman
4/1/2009, 12:00 AM

Let’s apply the famous Four Sons of the Pesach Seder to the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel. Here’s what is written in the Haggadah:

“The Torah speaks of four children: One is wise, one is wicked, one is simple, and one does not know how to ask.

The wise child, what does he say? ‘What are the symbols, rules, and laws that the L-rd our G-d commanded you?’ Then you shall tell him the laws of Pesach up to: we do not taste anything after the Afikoman.”

When the wise Jew looks at modern history and sees that G-d has brought about World Wars and international treaties to bring His scattered children back to the Land of Israel after an exile of nearly 2000 years, and sees the incredible rebirth of the previously barren Land, and the miracle of rebuilding, technological development, military might, and sees how Israel has become once again the center of Torah learning for the Jewish People, he seeks to understand what is taking place and how he can place his life in line with G-d’s will for the Nation. Faced with the clear realizations of ancient prophecies promising the ingathering of the outcasts and the resettlement of the Land, and the tangible rebuilding that everyone who visits the country can see, he understands that it is G-d’s unfolding game-plan that Jews abandon the Diaspora and come on aliyah.

So he seeks to learn how he can best perform the mitzvah.  He does this by asking the Sages in Israel who can explain these matters to him, by reading the writings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, by studying books like “The Kuzari,” “Am HaBanim Semicha,” the writings of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and by listening to Torah lectures on websites like Yeshivat Beit El and Machon Meir. Part of his wisdom is his humility. In realizing that he does not have all the answers, he seeks explanations from people who do. He longs to be a part of the great national Jewish undertaking that he sees unfolding before his eyes in Israel, and he longs to join with those who are working with G-d to bring about the promised Redemption by coming to live in the Land.

Passover Seder

The Haggadah continues:

“The wicked child, what does he say? ‘What is this service to YOU?’ To YOU, but not to me! Because he removes himself from the community, he denies everything. Thus, you should also give him a blunt answer and say, ‘Because of this, G-d did things for me – but not for YOU! If you had been there, you would not have been saved.’”

These wicked children are the scorners, the talkbackers who always find things wrong with Israel. This wicked child removes himself from the wondrous ingathering that G-d is bringing about because it is not to his liking. It doesn’t match his way of doing things. He doesn’t agree with G-d. He would do things better. In the meantime, he’s staying put in Vienna, England, Cyberspace, and Japan. Once again, we are not talking about Jews who can't come on aliyah because of pressing financial, health, or psychiatric problems, but about those who could but don't and discourage others from coming as well.

Regarding this child, the “Me’am Lo’ez” commentary on the Haggadah writes: “By excluding himself from the observance, this child is considered to have denied the essence of Judaism. You must therefore give him a blunt answer as to set his teeth on edge. He is not allowed to taste the Pascal lamb. Let him watch you eat the fragrant, tasty lamb, and sit there grinding his teeth. G-d did this for me – for me and not for YOU. If you had been in Egypt, you would not have been delivered. A wicked person like you, who does not believe in the commandment of the holy Torah, would certainly have died during the three days of darkness. During those days, many people like you died. G-d does not perform miracles for people like you.”    

The Haggadah continues:

“The simple child, what does he say? ‘What is this?’ You shall say to him, ‘With a strong hand, G-d took us out of Egypt, from the house of slaves.’”

The simple child has good intentions. He sees that G-d is indeed bringing the Jewish People back to the Land of Israel from the four corners of the globe. He is interested to know more about it. He hasn’t learned these things in the past, and he isn’t accustomed to Torah learning, so you answer him by telling him the full historical story, from our beginnings as a People, how G-d gave us the Land of Israel, and how we lost it due to our sins, how we suffered in the exile at the hands of the gentiles, and how G-d is bringing us back now, through the developments of modern history and the establishment of the State of Israel.

The Haggadah goes on:

“And as for the one who does not know how to ask, you must begin for him, as it is written, ‘You shall tell your child on that day, Because of this, G-d did things for me when I left Egypt.’”

This child is so out of things that he knows absolutely nothing. He never learned. No one ever taught him. To him, Israel is no different from New Zealand or Thailand. To stimulate his imagination, you have to tell him about the miracles of the Exodus, how G-d overturned all of the laws of nature to bring the Jewish people out of Egypt to the Land of Israel. Once he is interested, you can encourage this child to learn more about his Jewish identity and his G-d given destiny.

And then, as the holy Rebbe of Chabad explained, there is the fifth child, who doesn’t show up at the Seder at all. He’s either stoned out of his mind in some disco in Bangkok, or busy hiding Easter eggs for his gentile children to find after the parade.

Easter Bunny

May Hashem have mercy on us and redeem us from all of our screwed up notions, both here in Israel and abroad.