THE FOUR SONS
There are four kinds of Sons referred to in the Torah regarding THE PRIMARY
PURPOSE of carrying the message. These are the four personality types in and out of
Recovery to whom we can convey the message.
1. The cleverdik, fiercely intellectual, much too smart for his own good and
2. The one who thinks he's too wicked for it to work for him.
3. The newcomer, barely coherent, totally beaten and ready.
4. The one who's still out there, who can't stop and desperately wants help.
THE CLEVER ONE SAYS MAH! "WHAT"
He uses the word "What" in the deprecatory was that Moshe used it when he asked: "And
what are we that you rebel against us?"
"So what's the big deal?" asks the cleverdik. "What are these testaments, statutes and
laws that Hashem has commanded you?"
From his use of the word "you" in the question, we can infer his real needs. He's scared.
He is like the arrogant addict who walks into the room, reads the 12 steps and says, "Is
that all you have to do?"
His error is twofold. He thinks he's too clever for such a simple program to work in his
life, and he thinks he can do it on his own.
The Haggadah tells us,
"You should also say to him".
The word "also" seems superfluous. The Hebrew word for also "Af" has another,
emotional, meaning. "Af" means heavy-nasal-breathing-anger. The attitude of the
cleverdik will often infuriate, frustrate and invoke anger in us. We have all been in his
In response the Haggadah warns us to be gentle. The Hebrew word for "SAY", "EMOR"
is the softest, lightest form of address as opposed to "speak" or "tell"....Gently is the only
way to carry the message.
And the Message is All the laws of Pesach including what happens after the seder is over.
We tell him, "You can't do it on your own". Almost the first law of Pesach is that you
require a group. One person can't eat the Paschal lamb; it must be celebrated en masse.
Groups of people whose only requirement is a desire to join may come together in the
Ritual of Sharing.
"If any of them is missing, let the whole group be concerned." says the Mishna... You
cannot bake matzos on your own... You cannot escape from Egypt on your own... So
don't say "You"; say "Us".
Finally we tell him, the reason it works is because we take it with us when we leave here.
Even when the seder is over we don't eat anything else, that the taste of Recovery we
have shared remains with us until we meet again. Therefore we eat no dessert after the
THE WICKED ONE SAYS MAH! "WHAT"
He uses the word "what" Mah in the sense that Yaakov (Jacob) used it when he
exclaimed, "What an awesome place this is".
"What an awesome program this is you work.” says the wicked son.
He thinks everyone in recovery must be adhering to some impossible program of
perfection. (From which he is excluded by virtue of his irredeemability) He also, in an
inverted grandiosity, no less annoying than the cleverdik, considers himself more unique
than anyone else. However bad you think a person might be, he's just worse.
In essence our response is to identify with him. Yes! We too felt that way. In fact we all
felt the same way, unsalvageable and despicable. In those days we thought we were G-D,
so if we couldn't do it who could?
That's why Hashem brought us out, doing for us what we couldn't do for ourselves. We
blunt his argument, we take the bite out of his snarl, we tell him
"Because of this" The seder we're having now. "Hashem did for us". The reason He did
for us was that we might carry the message of Recovery to you, not because we were any
better than you.
"What does he think?” we ask "For us and not for him?" Does he really believe Hashem
would have left him in Egypt? Does he think he's irredeemable? He obviously never met
In the quote which we put to him,
"Because of this, Hashem did for me when I came out of Egypt".
The word "Did" is ambiguous. The Hebrew for "Did" is "ASA" It means a very earthy
form of creativity like the making of Man himself (e.g., when the word ASA is used in
Nasa Adam, "Let us make man").
It also refers to the final act of creation which is speech. What Hashem "did" for me was
to verbalize all the pain which I could not speak for myself. This, we tell the so-called
wicked son, is what Hashem did for me. He taught me the words with which to express
THE SIMPLE ONE SAYS MAH! "WHAT"
The simple one uses "What" in the sense that Yirmuyahu (Jeremiah) used it when he
lamented, "Remember, Oh G-D, What happened to us?"
"Just what is this?" asks the simple son. He is openminded and willing to listen, to learn.
Why the seder? Why the exodus? Why the slavery?
To him we say: "We were powerless. It was Hashem's strong arm that brought us out of
Egypt, out of slavery".
Admitting powerlessness is our first step. If we won't admit it, we can't get help, you have
to lose to win.
Tam, the Simple one is ready to hear this message, his name implies it. Tam in Hebrew
and all Semitic languages means "The End" an unequivocal finality. He is finished,
beaten, willing and ready.
The Tam actually says "What's this?" Mah Zos. The word Zos "THIS" refers to the
Recovery known in Hebrew as "Teshuva" more commonly translated as "Repentance".
The three elements in the classic description of Teshuva are
Repentance, Prayer and Charity.
These are the building blocks of the 12 steps.
We Confess, Admit, Come to believe.
We become willing, grow humble, make restitution. We Pray and Meditate and we carry
the message. Another description of Teshuva uses words of Cabalistic significance and
1. KOL = VOICE = 136
2. T'ZOM = FASTING = 136
3. MAMON = MONEY = 136
4. ZOS = THIS = 408
ZOS is a name for the "Shechina" It refers to the manifestation of Hashem in the world of
man. The dwelling place. The raison d'etre. The Inexplicable meaning of life. Recovery is
the reason for the creation of the universe. Why did Hashem allow life to evolve to the
point where all the symmetries have broken? All the parities are gone? Even the Universe
is no longer evenhanded. Man is the destroyer, so why did Hashem settle upon us?
Look at us in recovery and the answer is self evident. The fixing!
Not the Fix, not the fixation. Repairing, recovering, that's the meaning of life.
When the Simpleton asks his simple question, he is being the most profound and
MAH ZOS, "What is ZOS?"
THE ONE WHO CAN'T ASK - SH'EYNO YODAYA LISHOL
You must carry the message to the one who can't ask for help.
That is our primary purpose as it is written: " And you shall tell it to your child on that
day, saying: Because of This, Hashem did for me, when I came out of Egypt".
This is exactly what we told the wicked one when he asked his question, the message is
identical: "It works! Look at me, I'm not a slave. I am free. You too can be free.
This is why Hashem brought me all this way, so that I could bring this message to you".
In fact we tell him the Haggadah.
YOCHOIL - I MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT
Since it is written, "You shall tell the Haggadah to your child" I might have thought any
time in the spring around Pesach time is a good opportunity to talk about the miracle of
Recovery. Therefore the Torah states specifically,
"On that day".
So now I know a more specific period. However, I might have thought that day-time,
whilst going about the business of preparing for Yom Tov would be a good opportunity
to say the Haggadah, to talk about Recovery: Whilst we are cleaning the house for
Therefore the Torah states precisely;
"You shall tell the Haggadah to your child, on that day, saying "Because of this Hashem
did for me when I came out of Egypt".
I can only say "Because of this" at the formal seder when the symbols of the Seder,
Matzo and Maror, the symbols of slavery and freedom are clearly visible. We need to
stay in touch with the fundamentals of the program. "We must keep it green". It must not
become some abstract journey we talk about. Let's keep it real and tangible to all our
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