Passover is one of the most important Jewish festivals, which commemorates the escape of the enslaved Hebrews from the tyranny and oppression of the Pharaoh of Egypt. An important aspect of the festival is the Seder meal - a ritual feast held at the beginning of the occasion. During this meal, there is a custom of narrating the story of the ‘Four Sons’, which is regarded as an educational tool for making the present generation aware of its varied culture and heritage. This is also a means of helping the head of the household in deciding what method of communication would be apt for transmitting the actual story and messages of Pesach, to the newer generation.
Four Sons Of Passover
The story of the Four Sons shows the different ways by which one can interpret the festival of Passover and also brings forth the different shades and aspects of the occasion. It also provides answers to help children have a clear idea as to why the festival is celebrated and therefore, feel grateful for everything that the Lord had done for the enslaved Israelites long back. As mentioned in the Holy Haggadah, each of the Four Sons represents a different type of Jewish person, based on the type of question one asks about the festival. Accordingly, four basic human traits can be seen in this: one who is wise, one wicked, one who is simple and the last who does not know to ask.
The one question that these four sons ask is ‘What is the meaning of this service?’ However, the phrasing of these simple words is done in different ways and hence, the answer to them varies as well. The wise one inquires about the true meaning of the laws and customs of Pesach and of the rituals that are practiced during the Seder meal. The answer to this is a brief account of the history of the exodus of the enslaved Hebrews and how the Lord helped them the entire way. This is followed by the fact that the Lord commanded the Jews to believe, study, and fulfill the laws for their own good, so that they are protected to this day and beyond.
This is followed by the query of the simple and indifferent son who asks ‘What is this?’ Although this question is phrased in a simple manner and lacks the sophistication of the question asked by the wise son, yet one can make out the sincere desire to understand and learn more. This can be answered in very simple terms by reminding him about the help that the Lord had bestowed upon the enslaved Hebrews at the time of exodus from Egypt. The son who does not know to ask should be made to understand the importance of remembering and observing the rituals of Passover and thus, feel gratitude for everything that the Lord has done for them.
Next, the wicked son asks his father, in a very disinterested and vague manner, ‘What is this service to you?’, thereby separating himself from the customs and traditions of the festival and from the Jewish people in general. Although such a phrase deserves no response, answering it is a must and so, he is rebuked by the explanation that ‘It is because God acted for my sake when I left Egypt’, thereby implying that the Seder is not meant for him because he does not deserve to be free from Egyptian slavery. Lastly, the silent son, who is young and does not know enough to enquire, is told about the different aspects of the Passover story in a plain and simple manner.
The four sons are answered in accordance with the biblical command: ‘And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: it is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt’. The story of the Four Sons gives a profound message to one and all - to think and decide for themselves what type outlook they should have towards the festival and towards life in general. They are always confronted by people who make fun of the sayings and preaching of the Torah and mock people who follow them. This story teaches them how to respond to different situations and thereby improve the critic by their response.