Four sons are discussed during the Passover Seder. They are meant to describe all of our children.
The wise son asks: “What is the meaning of the rules, laws and customs which the Eternal our G-d has commanded us?” You shall explain to him all the laws of Passover, to the very last detail about the Afikoman.
The contrary son asks: What is the meaning of this service to you?” Saying you, he excludes himself and because he excludes himself from the group, he denies a basic principle. You may therefore tell him plainly: “Because of what the Eternal did for me when I came forth from Egypt” I do this. For me and not for him: had he been there, he would not have been redeemed.
The simple son asks: “What is this?” To him you shall say: “With a strong hand the Eternal brought us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
As for the son who does not even know how to ask a question, you must begin for him, as it is written in the Bible, “You shall tell your child on that day: This is done because of that which the Eternal did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.”
Translation from the Goldberg Haggadah
We are supposed to go to Israel next month. Our flights haven’t been cancelled, yet, but they will be. And we will have to find a different time to go. This is a little story about my first trip:
I had waited my whole life to see and touch the Kotel, the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem. And then, in May of 2008, I was about to have my chance. I was mesmerized. I had cleared security and was walking across the plaza, intently focused on the ancient wall, when I was accosted by a beggar. He was aggressive, a professional, and I first tried to ignore him. I had already donated Tzedaka, charity, while in Israel. I wanted to get to the wall. But he persisted. I said NO. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and put himself between me and my goal. Finally, in exasperation, I said that I had waited my whole life for this moment and he was ruining it for me, as if I could shame him into leaving me alone. And that is when I failed the moment. This wasn’t about me getting to the wall. The important thing was for me to connect to 5 thousand years of our history, to be a part of everything that culminated in me being in that plaza at that moment. Our successes, our Torah, our laws. And part of that history, part of our heritage was that beggar and everything he represented in how we treat the stranger and the poor amongst us. The dollar in my pocket wouldn’t significantly change either of our lives. What mattered was how graciously it should have left my pocket and into his hand.
We begin as children who don’t know how to ask questions and when we do, it is of the simplest nature. We become capable of being both the wise son and the wicked son. It is simply a question of whether we put ourselves first or choose to be a part of our group, to honor our heritage, and to accept the responsibility of the moment.
Sally and I will get our trip to Israel. It will be my third, her first. And when we do, we hope to pass all of the tests we encounter and to fully appreciate our connection to our heritage.
This is truly an odd Passover this year. Many of us will be conducting virtual Seders. Our family safely attending via Skype or Zoom. Regardless of the circumstances, I hope that you find meaning and comfort in the retelling of our redemption from slavery, our march towards freedom.
Picture – The Kotel – David L Cunix