The Moment of Execution

Mar 31st, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Relationships
“There is no such thing in man’s nature as a settled a full resolve, either for good or evil, except at the very moment of execution.” (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

I wonder if the Ba’al Haggadah (Author) would agree: The way most of us understand the Four Sons is as each having a fully resolved nature. “What does the Wise Son say,” implies an established nature; he is a wise child. So too, with the wicked, the “simple,” and the one who doesn’t care enough to ask. Our responses certainly seem to be to defined characters: if the Wicked child doesn’t have a fixed nature; why would we take such a firm, almost aggressive approach?

We are all too familiar with people who become the way they are treated. Why would we respond in such a manner, rather than offer an opening to a new way of thinking. Yes, I can explain the answer in a different way, but the words are the words, and they convey a hostile response.

“Blessed is the Omnipresent. Blessed is He. Blessed is He Who gave the Torah to His nation Israel. Blessed is He. The Torah spoke “Kineged,” corresponding to four children.”

Actually the Torah describes four questions, and offers answers different from some of the ones we offer in the Haggadah. Many are under the impression that the four questions listed in the Torah are about Pesach. Some are, and some are not! The Wicked and the one who doesn’t care to ask are about Pesach. The Simple question is about the complexities of the redemption of the First Born people and animals. The Wise question is about becoming someone who naturally knows how God wants him to act. The different issues instigate different sorts of questions.

The Wicked son is only child’s question presented in the present to the people about to offer the first Pesach; the rest are in the future, after we enter the land of Israel. The Wise question is presented in the context of an unusually elevated level; no wonder it’s the Wise child who appears! The different contexts stimulate different questions.

Perhaps Hawthorne was correct: their natures are not fully resolved. The “moment of execution” shapes the question and the questioner. Our challenge at this point of the Haggadah is to create an environment that will nurture a certain type of question, and not another. We create the “Kineged,” the environment to which the child responds.

There is the home that focuses on, “Blessed is the Omnipresent,” God is everywhere. His Presence permeates the family.

There is the home that lives, “Blessed is He,” in which God is an ill-defined pronoun, a weak force, of which the parents speak in vague terms. The family observes without any clarity.

There is the home of, “Blessed is He Who gave the Torah to His nation Israel,” that focuses on our unique relationship to God, and that He speaks to us through His Torah. And, there is the other type of “Blessed is He,” home, in which God is an empty noun, without any real feelings or awareness.

Each home becomes a “Kineged,” as a wife is an, “Eizer Kinegdo,” a force that pushes against the most important issues, and motivates growth.

The Torah offers answers to four types of questions. The Haggadah evaluates four types of environments.

The Seder night is our moment of execution. We can look at our Seder, see which nature or environment we have expressed, and better understand our children’s questions.

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