Jewish tradition tells of four children with unique ways of understanding Passover: the wise child, the wicked child, the simple child and the silent child. Yet we know that no child is all wise, all wicked, all simple or incapable of asking anything. At different points in our lives, we have been each of these children.
What does the wise child say?
The wise child asks diligently, “What are the testimonies and laws which God commanded you?”
What does it mean to be the wise child?
It means to be fully engaged in the community, to know the limits of your understanding, to be able to search for the answers to that which you do not know.
At different points in our lives, we have been this child—inquisitive, caring, eager to learn and to understand, wiling to ask for information we do not have, hopeful that an answer can be found.
What does the wicked child say?
The wicked child asks, “What does this service mean to you?”
To you and not to himself or herself.
What does it mean to be the wicked child?
It means to stand apart from the community, to feel alienated and alone, depending only on yourself, to have little trust in the people around you to help or answer your questions.
At different points in our lives, we have been this child—detached, suspicious, challenging.
What does the simple child say?
The simple child asks, “What is this?”
What does it mean to be a simple child?
It means to see only one layer of meaning, to ask the most basic of questions, to be too innocent or impatient to grasp complicated questions.
At different points in our lives, we have all been this child—simply curious and innocently unaware of the complexities around us.
What about the child who doesn’t know how to ask a question?
Help this child ask. Start telling the story: “It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.”
What does it mean to be the silent child?
This can be the indifferent child, no longer willing to engage. It can be the passive child, who just shows up. Or it can be the child whose spiritual life is based on faith, not rational arguments, the child who hears something deeper than words, who knows how to be silent and to listen to the surrounding silence.
At different points in our lives, we have all been this child—unable to articulate, quiet, searching for the right words, listening in silence.
We have asked the cleverest of questions; we have challenged provocatively; we have simply wanted to know the answer; and we have been so confused that we could not speak. We have been all of these children. Which one are you tonight?
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