The Four Sons by Talia Resin

I have thought about this particular story in the Haggadah more than one probably should. Perhaps it is because my husband is one of four boys, or that I have three sons of my own and wondered whether any of them would match up with the four in the story. There is a message in the story that is very relevant to us today and it is the one I not only think about, but it has also shaped my life and the way I choose to raise our boys. There are many ways to read the story of the four sons but I see the four sons as representative of various degrees of assimilation.

CHACHAM: The Wise son is the Jew who values Jewish tradition and engages in learning, ritual and celebration. He seeks out a Jewish community and actively participates in Jewish religious and cultural life.

RASHA: The Wicked son represents the Jew who rebels against his heritage, challenges and even mocks his teachers and fellow Jews as he struggles to find meaning in it for himself.

TAM: The Simple Son is sweet, kind and goes through them motions without too much thought. He doesn't find personal meaning or depth in his heritage, but this isn't a source of distressing for him. He is uninterested in Jewish learning but he usually attends synagogue on the high holidays has a group of Jewish friends to spin the dreidel with on Hannukah.

BEN SHE’EINO YODEA LISHOL: The son who doesn't even know how to ask a question represents the Jew who wasn't raised with any meaningful jewish education. He finds the talk of religion and God foreign and the synagogue boring and uncomfortable. He is not at home in his Jewish identity. He grandfather swapped his kippah for a baseball cap many years ago and now this Jew is at home in all things American but not in Shul. While he doesn't actively participate at the Seder table, at least he shows up. In fact, regardless of the degree of Jewish connection and knowledge for any of the Four sons, they are all present at the Seder table. There is still an opportunity for questions, learning, growth and interest.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, taught that today there is a fifth son, the one who is not even present at the Seder; completely unaware of his great and proud heritage.

Rabbi Ed Feinstein teaches that our freedom today means that we are all Jews by choice. Every day we make a choice to actively engage or identify Jewishly or not. What can we all teach our sons and our daughters so that they want to not only show up at the Seder table, but they want to prepare, read, sing and even lead? The journey of parenting the Jewish future is also a choice, but the rewards will not just be having our sons and daughters at the seder table, but G-d willing our grandchildren and great grandchildren as well.

haggadah Section: -- Four Children
Source: Art: Proud Mama by Jordan Resin