The Unlucky Child

April 13, 2019 at 2:39 AM , ,

“…The Torah speaks of four children: One is wise, one is wicked, one is simple and one does not know how to ask…” – The Haggadah

כְּנֶגֶד אַרְבָּעָה בָנִים דִּבְּרָה תוֹרָה: אֶחָד חָכָם. וְאֶחָד רָשָׁע. וְאֶחָד תָּם. וְאֶחָד שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל – הגדה של פסח

In four places, the Torah instructs us to relate the story and mitzvos of Pesach to our children. The Haggadah interprets this as four different conversations, reflecting four types of “sons” who might be asking the question: the wise son, the wicked son, the simple son, and the son who does not know how to ask.

The Haggadah’s placement of the son who does not know how to ask at the very end of this list seems unfair. If the first mentioned is the wise son, the most virtuous, then at the very end of the list should be his nemesis, the wicked son. Why does the Haggadah list the wicked son immediate after the wise and righteous son, and the son whose only crime is his lack of knowledge at the very end?

In doing so, the Haggadah highlights the crucial need to ensure that every Jewish child receives a Jewish education. For in a certain sense, someone who is lacking Jewish education and training is in a more lamentable position than someone who received a proper education but chose to rebel against it. For a person who was never taught how to live Jewishly, i.e., in accordance with the Torah and mitzvos, will still be a ways off even when he ultimately seeks to return to his heritage.

The Haggadah

The wicked son, on the other hand, though he is currently going through a rebellious or defiant phase, but he can entirely transform himself at any moment into “a wise son.” Furthermore, we are certain that he will ultimately repent before the coming of Moshiach (see Tanya Chapter 39), as we are promised that, “No one banished from Him will remain banished” (Shmuel II 14:14). It is not a question of if, but of when. And at that moment, since he has been fortunate enough to receive a satisfactory Jewish education, he will be capable of immediately assuming a full Torah lifestyle.

—Toras Menachem 5743 vol. 3, pp. 1279-1280


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