Four Children? Nope! They're ALL US!

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There is  something else hidden tonight in addition to the Afikoman.

We generally think of the Four Children as distinct individuals, or personalities, or types.

Each asks (or doesn't ask) a different type of question and in a different tone. (This is the Haggadah's way of explaining why the Torah seems to say we should tell our children about the Exodus from Egypt in different words, and in differing levels of detail. The Book of Proverbs tells us to "teach a child in the way s/he can understand (appropriate to each age, intellectual and interest level), and as s/he grows older that knowledge will remain."

But just flip the list upside down, and a different picture emerges.

Suddenly, we see ourselves at all the stages of our human development from childhood to adulthood and beyond, reflected in this passage.

The one who doesn't know what or how to ask is too young - perhaps a pre-schooler, or simply incapable of asking.

The simple one. Simple questions from a young child just learning about life - just learning how to read and reason - require simple, declarative if not definitive, answers, without equivocation and as factual but unfrightening as we can make them.

The rebellious one - (often erroneously referred to as wicked) - that's us as teenagers, challenging authority, seeking our own answers, trying to make sense of things we now summarily reject out of hand that once we had accepted as revealed truth.

The wise one. Then, IF we survive our teenage rebelliousness, we FINALLY emerge into adult maturity, and hopefully, attain wisdom or something akin to it, that enables us to function in, if not make sense of, the world we inhabit. 

If we are lucky, this last stage lasts a lifetime.

(For many, however, the ladder UP eventually becomes the staircase DOWN again, as we pass through the wisdom of adulthood, back to a a cantankerous stubbornness or rebelliousness, to simplicity, and finally, sadly, to the silence of no longer knowing how, or caring what, to ask.)