Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
The 4 Sons - Which One Am I?
Published: Thursday, March 11, 2021 09:29:11 AM
Number of views: 1569

The 4 sons occupy a key place in the Hagadah. The Hagadah states their questions, then spells out the answers, all of which are based on biblical texts. כנגד ארבעה בנים דברה תורה.

The Torah is realistic, not all children are Chachamim. Life presents us with a variety of children, ranging from the wise to the wicked. Parents cannot and should not ignore any of them. We have to listen carefully to the questions of all of our children and seek to answer them. No matter what the pressure or provocation, we must maintain our relationship with all kinds of children. As long as they sit at the Seder, ask questions and lend an ear to our replies and the teachings of the Torah, there is hope and reason for optimism.

This explains the rather unusual introduction in the Hagadah to the passage of the 4 sons. ברוך המקום. ברוך הוא. ברוך שנתן תורה לעמו ישראל. ברוך הוא.

4 times the word Baruch is repeated. This is to show that each of the 4 sons, good or bad, is a blessing. Every child, no matter what his attitude is now, could potentially be a blessing. Today’s Rasha may be tomorrow’s Chacham. And today’s Tam may very well become a wise disciple the following year.

This optimistic approach is given additional emphasis by the story of the famous sages who were gathered in Bnei Brak onPesach night. They were the greatest men of the generation, the outstanding and revered scholars in Israel, but they were not all originally so. Rav Eliezar, who is described in Pirkei Avot as “a cemented cistern which doesn’t lose a drop” only began his Torah studies at the age of 22. Until then he was an ignoramus.

Rabbi Akiva, the greatest Tanna of the Mishna, was a total Am Haaretz until the age of 40. Not only was Rabbi Akiva ignorant of Torah, he even hated the very sight of a Talmud Chacham. (Pesachim 49b)

But Rachel, his wife, with a בינה יתרה (women’s intuition) saw in him great promise and potential. She recognized his qualities of potential scholarship and leadership. She would not give up on him. How right she was! Years later, because of her encouragement, Rabbi Akiva would occupy the most revered and distinguished position in the Jewish community.

Can we then measure the potential of people? Are we justified in becoming discouraged too easily? Of course not!

Let us then apply ourselves to all of our children, the bright and the simple, the devout and the wicked ones. The light of Torah may well perform wonders. Thus each and every child is a special blessing.

Let’s keep in mind that every person has a component of Chacham, Rasha, Tam, She’eino Yodeia Lishol in his being. Relative percentages differ, but we are each ALL of the 4 sons.

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