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Are there really four children at the Passover seder? -- Shabbat Message 4/10/15

Posted on 04/10/2015 @ 12:00 PM

Each year our Passover seders bring us four children asking questions: one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who asks nothing. Some are quick to make assumptions about who these children are: The wise child is a scholar, wanting to understand everything. The wicked child is a loudmouth, always looking to challenge. The simple child can’t handle complex ideas. And the child who doesn’t ask is simply bored. But what if we force ourselves to look beyond the caricature? What if we force ourselves to consider the full picture before we answer?

As our teens progress through their time with BBYO they develop and change. They enter as 8th graders, perhaps unsure and quiet. Maybe they become boisterous 10th graders who think they know everything. Perhaps they mature and through growth comes perspective as they near graduation. Or maybe they lack interest in some things as they are exposed to others along the way. And really, their mood and approach changes daily, because after all, they’re teenagers and their lives are constantly in flux.

How does looking at their external & internal situation change our answer to the wicked child, or the simple child, or even the wise child? Do we treat and respond to an 8th grader the same way we would an 11th grader? Do we engage with a teen who is experiencing difficulties at home and perhaps less responsive to BBYO this week the same way we do all other teens? No. So perhaps our challenge is to look at these caricatures, not as four separate children, but rather as one child exhibiting different parts of themselves. We’ve all seen the teen who is excited to learn about recruitment, asks many questions about MRIHA, but is then disruptive during a program. We all have experience with the teen for whom Israel perks them up, but they sit silently during discussions about Stand UP. Do you call them the child who doesn’t know how to ask, or the wise child? Maybe they’re both. Maybe they’re all four. But maybe we need to be more thoughtful about the way we approach their questions and provide answers.

Sometimes our teens need us to be responsive to what’s going on that day, and sometimes we need to recognize what they can handle and help propel them forward. A teen who lacks knowledge in one area is not a teen who can’t learn. A teen who is a loudmouth during one meeting is not unwise. Think about what’s influencing your teens in the moment, but before answering or reacting, consider the bigger picture of who they are and what they need.

This Shabbat Message was written by Aleeza Lubin, Director of Jewish Enrichment

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