The apocryphal story of the “Four Sons” has been a part of every Passover Seder I’ve ever attended or hosted.
The seder has a unique and beautiful educational premise: how best to involve the younger audience in the story. One way it does so is by encouraging the questioning process about the meaning of Passover. (For ideas on how to involve teens click here).
The picture above is from one of the Haggadahs I inherited from way back when, and depicts the types of questions that are archetypal of the four personality and character traits of those who are/should be asking questions at the seder.
This section comes immediately after the recitation (often by the youngest in the crowd) of the four questions as to “why is this night different from all other nights.”
Translated, the Hebrew descriptions above are:
The Wise One
The Evil One
The Simple One
The One That Doesn’t Know How to Ask (questions).
Credit goes to the artist for keeping gender references away from the Hebrew wording, although the pictures make things pretty clear that it’s the boys we’re talking about. (Why the text only identifies sons is not a discussion I’ll be pursuing here).
The Haggadah proceeds to relate an example of how each different child asks questions and the adult’s proper response to that question. (You may want to refer to an actual Haggadah. For the content, you can find an example here).
This is where we need to redeem the children from their bondage in the Haggadah. There is a greater picture here that we shouldn’t miss.
Contained in the question and answer descriptions are so many possibilities for encouraging an open discussion about values, education, ethics, parenting and more.
They are in themselves, triggers for so many additional conversations:
- Getting Beyond the Labels (i.e. what is your definition of wise, evil, etc.)
- Effective and Ineffective Communication Styles
- What Happens When We Don’t Ask the Questions
- Parenting Approaches
- Learning Differences
- Rebellion vs. Evil Intent
- Effects of Being Labelled
- Intelligence vs. Wisdom
- Multiple Intelligences
As long as Jewish culture, history, heritage, and values are part of the discussion, any one of the conversation starters above has the potential to engage all participants, drawing everyone into the Seder’s emotional netting. Hopefully, this will bring the original intention of the Haggadah to life.
I wish you and your loved ones a Chag Kasher v’Sameach!