This is a alternative version of the four sons reading in the Haggdah I originally  wrote for Passover 5760 (2000). It  has had a few revisions over the years, including the illustrations, which tell a slightly differnt story than the text. Last year, I revised the fourth child to be once again one who didn't know how to ask. the original fourth child of this piece, I syntehsiszed into a fifth child - the one not there. I have posted that piece separately.

The Four Children: a Meditation

By Steven "Shlomo" Lipton

Close your eyes. Get comfortable and breathe.

Once you are relaxed, imagine you are sitting at a Passover Seder. There is the wine, the Seder plate, the matzah, and the lit candles. Look around and you have four guests: four children sitting at the table with you. Imagine they are four children found in you four different ways of looking at the Passover Seder. 

wise child

The first child is wise.

This child asks, "What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which the Lord, our G-d, has commanded you?" This child is filled with wonder at all those things around him. Like a kid in a candy store this child wants to sample everything, find every little treasure in this place and time. You, in turn, shall instruct him in the laws of Pesach, from beginning to end. Be also aware of the weakness of this child. This child is gullible, and will believe anything, including things that are harmful. They are like the child who wants to eat everything in the candy store, even the little plastic prizes, which they may choke on. You will need to watch this child, and steer them away from harm. 

rebellious child

The second child is rebellious.

This child asks, "What is this service to you?" This child uses the word "you" to exclude himself from the rest.In a sense, he implies that everything on this table is nothing but work and drudgery. Here is a child who is different than others. A child like this may feel the community shuns them. There is pain here: This child had been told that he must conform to the rules, and it's impossible for him to do so. There is loneliness, anger and isolation. Thus, he cannot see the joy in the Seder in front of him. To tell this child what he should do might only increase his isolation, guilt and pain. Instead tell the child "I do this because of what the HASHEM did for me when I left Egypt." By setting yourself as the model to follow, by showing the joy of the holiday, this child may feel safe enough to feel part of the family. Yet we must feel sad for this child too, for had he been in Egypt, this isolation would have blinded so thoroughly, that he would have been left behind. And that would be a pity. For we need this child as we need all of them. This is the child who can be careful and critical, to offset the reckless enthusiasm of the wise child- and keep all the children safe. Moses was this child when he stood before Pharaoh asking if helpless slaves could simply leave the greatest empire of the time. 

Simple child

The third child is the simple child

"What's this?" is all she can say. It is possible that this child is just a very simple child, and is unable to understand the complexities of all the things on the table, or this child is very righteous. Indeed, those who are very righteous may seem to be simple. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell if this is a very righteous child or just a simple one. In either case she may have a short attention span. It is for this child that we have the maggid, the story, part of the Seder. For if we tell a good story she just might sit still and listen. We say: "The Lord took us out of Egypt, out of bondage, with a strong hand." In this way, the very simple can get the idea of the Seder while the righteous can find deeper hidden meanings. 

Doenst know child

The fourth child doesn't even speak.

For this child we do the mitzvot, the special things we are commanded to do on Pesach, to see not  the questions, but the delight on his face of witnessing the Seder and the telling of the story. This delight will be rememberd for his entire life, bringing him back to the table every year.  In this way the parent fulfills the words of the Torah: You shall tell your son on that day "I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt"

See these four children in your mind. Acknowledge them. Even give each a big hug if you'd like. Spend some time now talking to them. Getting to know them better. When you are ready, come back to our Seder table.
Open your eyes

Steven Lipton, 2006