For the week ending 31 March 2007 / 12 Nisan 5767

Four Sons - One Father

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Four sons are mentioned in the Torah as challenging us to explain about the Exodus from Egypt and all the rituals connected with it.

These four sons are understood by our Talmudic Sages as representing a broad cross-section of Jewish youth and we read about them and their challenges in the Hagadah we recite at the Pesach Seder.

There is a wise son and the wicked one, the simpleton and the one who does not even know what to ask.

Perhaps we can think of the father facing these challenges as the collective leadership of our people, which has the responsibility to guide every member of a young generation in learning from the Exodus what it means to be a Jew.

The challenge of the wise son who wishes to know more and more about the deeper meanings of the guidelines given by G-d to His chosen people is answered not only on Pesach eve but every day of the year in the yeshivot and day schools throughout the world where Torah is taught.

The cynical taunting of the wicked son who has abandoned Torah Judaism for some watered-down substitute who mocks such rituals as a Pesach sacrifice is answered by the eloquent spokesmen of Torah Jewry who warn him that such an attitude perpetuates exile forever.

The simpleton, who is not necessarily lacking in intelligence but rather in knowledge, represents so many young Jews today whose familiarity with Jewish tradition is sparse but whose curiosity about it has already been aroused.

But whom does the fourth son represent with his inability to even ask a question?

To our deep regret he represents the vast majority of a lost generation who are not only ignorant about Judaism but are also totally unconcerned about it.

In regard to these last two sons the father dealing with them is the kiruv outreach movement in which Ohr Somayach is proud to play a major role. Those lacking knowledge are being given an opportunity in programs tailored to their needs to catch up on the learning they missed out on in their early years. For those who don't yet have even the desire to learn – hundreds of thousands of them on university campuses or at the beginning of careers – innovative programs have been developed to reach out to them and kindle the spark of Jewish consciousness buried deep within their souls.

Four sons – and one father who dreams of the day when all his children will join him at the Seder table filled with answers rather than questions.

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