Or HaMeir on the Four Children

Marc Chagall’s “The Passover Meal”

A paraphrase of several teachings on Pesach and the Haggadah from Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir, Or HaMeir.

Blessed be the Omnipresent One for giving the Torah to the Children of Israel. The Torah speaks of four children: the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who does not know how to ask.  Pesach Haggadah

The light of the Torah shows us the path to walk on and the way to act in a way that brings our soul’s deep knowledge into every thing that we do, joining them all together. The exile in Egypt, מצרים Mitzrayim, was the exile of מיצר ים החכמה meitzar yam hachokhmah, the “strictures of the sea of wisdom” — the knowledge and awareness of God in the world, which should fill the world like the sea fills its bed, was bound up and enslaved in our own ignorance and small-mindedness. So it was knowledge that brought us out of there, the knowledge of Torah, the awareness of God in every place and every moment.

Now no one’s knowledge is like that of another’s, for since the creation of the world no two people have been created the same in this way; just as no two days or two moments are identical, so no two people have ever been identical. So it follows that each person’s own Exodus from Egypt should also be different, each exile matching the individual’s own personal strictures and each redemption befitting the openness of his mind; likewise the telling of the Exodus will be different for each person, and the praise and thanks that he or she gives back to God. This is what the Haggadah hints at by joining Baruch Hamakom and K’neged Arba’ah Banim.

What does the wise child say? “What are the testimonies, laws, and statutes of Pesach which the LORD our God tziva etchem?” What is tziva etchem? “Joined with you.” He wants to know how each of the different testimonies, laws, and statutes of Pesach really speak about the unity of the LORD our God Who gave them, and how we may enter that divine unity. What does the wicked child say? “What is this service to you? The redemption is over and done. Why should we trouble ourselves with this service?” He separates the first redemption of the Exodus from the redemptions to come. He excludes himself from the communal experience of the redemption’s beginning in the Exodus, and has no faith in God to continue the redemption — for, truly, every day God brings him out of Mitzrayim, and this redemption will continue until the coming of the Messiah, yet he is not even aware. And we join in this effort of redemption by finding the divinity in every thing and every place and returning the divine spark to its source in God. What does the simple child say? “What is this?” The simple child is not so smart as the wise one, but his heart is true, and he wants only to do what God asks of him. In this he is not only “simple” but “pure,” “whole” — all meanings of תם. And the one who does not know how to ask, you must begin for him. He does not know what he lacks, or even what he wants, because he does not know himself what he loves. What he lacks is the beginning, the impetus for redemption, so you must help him begin by showing him what true redemption is: that God and God’s love are in everything and everyone we meet, and he must learn to see this with his own eyes, wanting nothing but to find God in everything and serve God in every moment. Or perhaps he speaks from some higher wisdom: knowing that God cannot be grasped in thought, much less in words, he keeps silent.

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This entry was posted in Haggadah, Hasidic Masters, Holidays/Days of Remembrance, Pesach, Redemption, Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir/Or HaMeir. Bookmark the permalink.

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