כנגד אבעה בנים דברה תורה (הגדה של פסח)
The four sons occupy a key place in the Haggadah. The author states their questions and then spells out the answers, both of which are based on Biblical texts. The Torah is realistic; not all children are chachamim. Life presents us with a variety of sons, ranging from the wise to the wicked. And parents cannot and should not ignore any of them. We have to listen carefully to the questions of all and seek to answer them. No matter what the pressure or provocation, we must maintain our relationship to all kinds of children. For so 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 to the passage of the four sons.
ברוך המקום, ברוך הוא, ברוך שנתן תורה לעמו ישראל, ברוך הוא.
Four times the word baruch is repeated. This is to show that each child of the four, good or bad, is a blessing. Every child, no matter what his attitude is now, may potentially be a blessing. Today's 'Rasha' may be tomorrow's Chacham and today's Tam may very well become the wise disciple the following year.
This optimistic approach is given additional emphasis by the story of the famous sages who are gathered in B'nei Brak on Passover eve. They were the leading men of the generation, the outstanding and revered scholars in Israel. But they were all not originally so. Rabbi Eliezer of whom it is said:
מה היתה תחלתו של ר' אליעזר בן הורקנס. עשרים ושתים שנה הי' ולא למד תורה (אבות דר' נתן פרק 1)
"He was like a cemented cistern which loses not a drop" (Mishna Avot) began his studies at the age of twenty-two. Rabbi Aquiba, the leading scholar of his age, was a total Am Ha'aretz until forty. Here, too, we are told
מה היתה תחלתו של ר' עקיבא – אמרו בן ארבעים שנה הי' ולא שנה כלום (אבות דר' נתן, פרק 1)
Not only was he ignorant of Torah, he even hated the very sight of a Talmid Chacham.
(P-sachim 49b). But Rachel, his wife, with a בינה יתרה – woman's intuition - saw in him great promise. She recognized his qualities of 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 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 difficult ones, – The light of Torah may well perform wonders. Each and every child is a special blessing.