Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Which One Are You Now?

 Which one are you Now?

The Haggadah quoting the Mishnah in Pesachim 10:4 posits that there are four different kinds of children, one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who doesn’t even know how to ask.  The editor of Rav Kook’s Hagadah cites a commentary from Rabbi Kook’s son, Rabbi Zvi Judah Hakohen Kook.  “He liked to quote from the book Yein Levanon the following insight:  In the Hebrew language, the word for ‘wise man,’ hakham, refers not only to intellectual acumen but connotes moral virtues as well.  The hakham is also a tsaddik (righteous person). This is certainly borne out by the opposition of the wise child to the wicked child.  We might have expected the wording to be ‘One wise, one foolish (tipesh), ‘or one righteous (tzaddik), one wicked” From the fact that the opposite of hakham (wise) is rasha (wicked), we are given to understand that a hakham is a tzaddik by definition. (Rav Kook’s Hagadah, page 47)

An example of the difference between a wise person and a wicked person can be ripped from the headlines.  Children are in the news again and unfortunately these teenagers are more wicked than wise. Recently, two male students on the Stubenville High School football team were convicted of raping a 16 year girl who was so drunk she was not conscious at the time. Another from of violence has reared its ugly head.  Rape is not a sexual crime; it is a violent crime against another person’s body.  Some of the media coverage of the rape conviction was almost as shocking as the despicable act itself. CNN said the boys were promising students.  ABCNews made excuses for the rapists. NBCNEWS laments the boys promising football careers. USAToday stressed that the victim was drunk.  Apparently not only young adults fall into the wicked category.  Violence has permeated all strata of life in America and the media perpetuates this violent culture.

But violence as a solution is so ingrained in our society that the Stubenville story has not yet ended.  A day after two high school football players were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl, authorities arrested two Ohio girls suspected of making online threats against the accuser. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the girls arrested Monday posted threatening comments on Twitter on Sunday, the day the players were convicted in Steubenville. One of the messages was later reposted on Facebook.  The older girl all of 16 years old was charged with aggravated menacing for a tweet that threatened homicide and said "you ripped my family apart," according to the attorney general's office. The girl is a cousin of one of the defendants attorney general spokesman Dan Tierney said Tuesday. A Twitter message from the younger girl, 15 years old, threatened the accuser with bodily harm, leading to a menacing charge, the office said.

Seeing the faults of others, while excusing them in ourselves, is a most common sin. If we are to be worthy of our final redemption, the Haggadah forces us to examine our own behavior as we delve deeper into the wisdom being taught by the four children.  The editor of the Rav Kook Hagadah notices that the Hagaddah repeats the word “one” again and again even though it is superfluous. Instead of saying one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who doesn’t even know how to ask, it could have just said wise, wicked, simple, and who does not know how to ask. 

“It is possible that a great truth is contained herein.  The numerical value of the word echad (one) is thirteen. Four times thirteen equals fifty-two.  The number fifty-two is expressed in Hebrew as ben, the word for son (which I have been translating as child). In reality the four children are not separate entities.  All four of them together (echad+ echad+ echad+ echad) comprise a single child…”  (page 47)  Each one of us has the capacity to be wise or wicked or simple or who doesn’t even know how to ask.  Each moment we get to choose which child we shall emulate.  Our tradition calls us to follow God’s example and strive to be righteousness in all of our ways because the fate of the world depends upon each of us.

Choose wisely.

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