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Entries in children (2)

Wednesday
Apr172019

The Seder's Wise Child - Missing the Point?

Of the four children at the seder, the answer to the wise child is the only one not taken from the biblical verses. Instead, we teach this child a law, that

one does not eat anything after the Pesach sacrifice (afikoman).

 

While we hold the oral law in high esteem, the fact remains that for whatever reason (and many reasons are offered for this anomaly), this child is set apart from the other three, in that the educational words explicitly laid out by the Torah itself are not given over to this child. The child is willy-nilly “poresh min hatzibbur”, separated out from the community of children and deprived of the original words of the Torah.

Could this in some subtle fashion result from the fact that this child is not whole-hearted (is not tam)? is too involved with his or her own intellect, the minutaie or casuistry, to be listening to the other children’s questions with any interest, due to undervaluing the place of fresh and innocent questions? Does this child perhaps not want to be lumped with the others, and is trying very hard to talk on an adult level – and has therefore forefeited a place with the children, the central feature of the seder, and the biblical verses given to them as a gift?

Ultimately, the child is included in the four children, of course, but we cannot but notice this fact setting him or her apart.

My advice would be, do not let the wise child grow up too quickly. Help these children stay connected to their genuine childish nature and educate them not to look down on the other children for fear of missing Gd’s revelation in the verses, that comes marked with a big sign marked “CHILDREN ONLY”. 

Sunday
Nov022014

Parents Take a Step, Children Take the Next

G-d's command to Abraham in Genesis 12:1 "Lech lecha - Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you" is one of the most powerful and significant verses in Jewish history, setting in motion a journey of peoplehood, ethics, and worship still in force today.

Yet the verses just before it explicitly tell us that Abraham's father Terach had set out already, to go to the land of Canaan (the mystery land is even named!). So we have to ask, why is G-d telling Abraham to "leave your father's home and go to a land i will show you" when his father was already on the way (presumably with son Abraham
in tow)?

This question could bear a number of answers. But I want to suggest that if we read it symbolically, then it can be taken as a statement of parents and children. Many, if not all of us, have traits and talents we inherited from our parents, but are able to take one step further.
Our parents travel a certain distance with their own skills, and then we get to travel the next part of the way and maybe even reach a destination they could never have achieved. Without them, however,  maybe we couldn't get there at all.

And our children will take this inherited spiritual material one step further too. So we should appreciate what our parents have done with what they were given, and that they have travelled the part of the journey that they could. Moreover, without them we wouldn't be who we are and where we are. Everyone does their part.

So Terach might not have known, or been aware, of why he needed to get up and go to Canaan. He might have thought he was going for trade reasons. But in reality, a deeper intention was carrying him along, part of the Divine plan. He was taking Abraham part of the way (to Haran, to be precise), so that Abraham could continue from that springboard. Abraham would eventually have to separate from him, per "Go from your father's house...", but, hopefully (and despite the deep ideological gap between the two), with deep gratitude for everything he had received.