Small enough to know you. Large enough to serve you.

The New Four Children (Passover 03/31/18)

Rabbi Neil Schuman

The New Four Children
Thanks to Michael and Sharon Dashow, who were kind enough to invite my family to their Seder, my first Seder was fascinating and enlightening. The Dashows utilized the American Jewish World Service Haggadah ( to create a social action-themed Passover Seder.
I’d say the essence of the Seder was that, as Jews, we should show care unto others, like the kindness we have or would have wanted to receive. The Torah says many times, “You shall love the stranger, for you were a stranger in a foreign land.” We know what it means to be a foreigner, whether it was in Egypt, Spain, Poland or America. In all those places we were discriminated against because we weren’t native, and we had different practices and beliefs. Therefore, since we know the hardship of being the stranger, we should welcome the new strangers to our country with generosity and open arms. Likewise, if we can extend care or protest for those suffering abroad, we should do so, for we know too well what’s it’s like not to receive such support.
Additionally, the AJWS Haggadah had an interpretation on the Four Sons (Children) that I thought was novel:
What does the activist child ask?
“The Torah tells me, ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue,’ but how can I pursue justice?” Empower her always to seek pathways to advocate for the vulnerable. As Proverbs teaches, “Speak up for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.”
What does the skeptical child ask?
“How can I solve problems of such enormity?” Encourage him by explaining that he need not solve the problems, he must only do what he is capable of doing. As we read in Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of Our Ancestors), “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
What does the indifferent child say?
“It’s not my responsibility.” Persuade her that responsibility cannot be shirked. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “The opposite of good is not evil; the opposite of good is indifference. In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
And the uninformed child who does not know how to ask …
Prompt him to see himself as an inheritor of our people’s legacy. As it says in Deuteronomy, “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” At this season of liberation, let us work toward the liberation of all people. Let us respond to our children’s questions with action and justice.
Not only was this new interpretation of the Four Children refreshing, but it was also relevant, for now it’s our children who are making the difference. Teenagers from Parkland High School, those who have been “the stranger”, the survivors of a mass shooting, have rallied the youth across the country to speak up and demand change. They’re battling the NRA and making our politicians feel unrest. The Florida Senate has already improved many of their gun laws, but these kids are setting their goals for a nationwide revamping. As noted in Time magazine on April 2, 2018, these kids are not letting anyone older than 20 on their staff. Parents are told that if they want to help out, buy pizza.
Therefore, after Passover, buy your kids as much pizza as they want when they’re planning their next big move. However, we are also someone’s kids and we need to see ourselves as activist children too. But stay out of these kids’ way, rather work on empowering these four (types of) children to change our world.
Happy Passover,
Rabbi Neil

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