Friday, April 6, 2012

Chag Sameach! Happy holiday!

14th Century Haggadah
At the Passover meal, the Seder, family members take it in turn to the read the Haggadah, which tells the story of our liberation from Egypt. One section of the Haggadah tells about the four children: the wise child, the wicked child, the simple child, and the child who does not know how to ask a question. Here’s a commentary on the four children by Rabbi Leo Abrami:

The Passover Haggadah teaches us many lessons which serve as a guiding light in our lives. In the first place, it tells us that everyone is welcome at the Seder table, not just the wise child but all children, however we may call them. Everyone is invited to partake in the Passover ceremony.

Each of the four children is given the opportunity to express himself even the one who has nothing but sneering comments to make: “What is this service to you?” the wicked child asks.

Yet we do not silence him. He has the right to be heard and state his opinion like the others. All questions may be asked whether they are profound and good or stemming from a hostile mind. Albert Einstein’s mother, we are told, preferred the first ones. She would not ask her son, “What did you learn at school today but rather, “What kind of good questions did you ask your teacher today?”

We ask all these questions because on Pessah’ we celebrate freedom. Not just physical freedom but freedom of thought and expression as well. Everyone has the right to state his opinion, even the one who has little to say, as the simple child who asks: “What is this?” He deserves an answer too.

The Four Children, Istvan Zador,
Budapest, 1924
The Hagaddah teaches us that we should respect each of our children. We do not ostracize or exclude the wicked child for his defiance, we just put him in his place and “blunt his teeth” without apologizing. In the words of the Hagaddah, “say to him…” not “tell him” but “say to him”. Speak to him in a way which may help him better understand that he cannot dissociate himself from the fate of his brethren.

Even the one who “does not know how to ask or what to ask.” He, too, deserves a proper answer like the other children. For they all belong to the same family and the same humanity. The four children include all of us. Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk used to say, “I am like the child who cannot ask because I feel so overwhelmed that I would know where to start asking.”

The Festival of Freedom not only commemorates the liberation of our people from Egyptian bondage but it reminds us also that we are part of the blessed generation, which is privileged to witness the extraordinary renaissance of our people in our days.

While marvelous events do not happen every day, the survival of our people and the important place it has achieved among the nations are truly miraculous. For two thousand years our people suffered discrimination, persecutions, expulsions and attempted genocide but, in the wake of the Holocaust which decimated our people, we rose again from the ashes of destruction and we began a new life in the land of Israel and the Diaspora.

Though “in every generation there are those who try to destroy us,” Providence has never abandoned us. We are confident that the Hamans and the Ayatollahs, the Torquemadas and the Hitlers will not succeed in their evil schemes and that the Divine Promise will ultimately be fulfilled.

The authors of the Haggadah and all our ancestors knew this and that is why we conclude our celebration with the words: “Next Year In Jerusalem! Le-Shanah Haba-ah Birushalayim!”

Leo Abrami’s book, The Eleventh Commandment, a Jewish Childhood in Nazi-Occupied France, is available from Amazon.

This post is reblogged from Harry's Place.


  1. Best wishes, too, at this special time. Enjoy the celebration with all its traditions!

  2. Have a blessed Easter.

  3. Thanks, Patricia. And a happy Easter to you or a just a great long weekend!