12 April 2017

The First Son: Why Wise, and not Righteous?

16 Nisan 5777
1st Day of the Omer

Featuring the top 2 in this picture. Thanks to Yaakov Kirschen.

Last night, Erev Pessah, my husband and I were seated across from a couple who were the son and daughter-in-law of our gracious hosts, along with their lovely children. The husband of this couple gave over an interesting question from The Rebbe concerning the Four Sons of the Seder.

A little background: The family we ate with is a large Halabi Syrian Hebrew-speaking (and Arabic-speaking, at least for the Seder), with Sepharadi origins and Mizrahi practice. At least two of their many sons have aligned themselves with Chabad, that I know of. The elder of these two is the one whose rendition, given in Hebrew, I am writing about today. It is more a transfer of thought, which is probably as much as I can expect from myself, than a translation.

Disclaimer: I have never read anything this question in Hebrew or English, and I find it difficult to find search terms on the Internet in Hebrew or English that would reveal it; so, my understanding of it comes from this d'var Torah. Any failure to give this over properly is mine.

And a reminder that in Israel we have only one night of seder. It is now hol hamo'ed — weekday during a holiday — for us.

The original was, of course, not recorded because we don't record on Hag. Therefore, it is hard to tell the difference between my thoughts and what the Rebbe said. My Hebrew, both understanding and speaking, is improving but isn't perfect. Perhaps when haShem flips the switch to give us all a common, clear language as He did when He confused the languages...😉

So...The Rebbe asked: Why does the Haggadah call the first son the Wise Son (hakham חכם) and not the Righteous Son (tzadiq צדיק)?

[After all, if one were to make a list of opposites, Wise would go across from Foolish, and Righteous would go across from Wicked. But in this case, Wise is across from Wicked (rasha' רשע). Which is why I think the Rebbe is asking the question; it intrigues him.]

The Rebbe's answer: The Righteous Son would always be correct in everything he said. But not everything he said would be listened to, because, while he is smart and knows all the answers, he doesn't know how to say what he needs to say because he does not understand the Wicked Son's need for a frank, uncompromising, real answer.

The Wise Son knows how to deal to everyone at the table. He knows to ask his parents questions, when to speak and when to keep silent. He knows how to deal with everyone, even (and especially) to his brother the Wicked Son. He even understands the Wicked Son because he has a little of him inside — but he knows how to handle himself so that he doesn't have to give in to it. [How did he get there? Maybe he decided that leaving himself out in the cold when it comes to the Jewish People's destiny is not a good idea.]

May Eliyahu haNavi (Elijah the Prophet) come to bring the good news of Mashiah's revelation and our complete redemption swiftly in our days!

Happy Festival of Freedom to all ! חג חירוטנו שמח לכולם

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