The Haggadah speaks of four children.
The wise child knows that she does not understand and that she needs to learn. “Teach me everything”, he demands, “because there must be more.” “What is the nature of the blockade on Gaza? What exactly went down at Camp David between Barak and Arafat? How many people were forced out of their homes in 1948?” The wise child will learn all she can from libraries and when that is not enough, she will learn from all those around her by never stopping to ask. I pray for a continuous thirst for knowledge because that lies at the root of growth.
The wicked child is all about the other. His operative word is you and he makes no effort to identify with anyone beyond his pale. Perhaps she is motivated by arrogance that her way is right or perhaps she is just scared, but she knows that all Arabs want to kill us, all settlers are racists, all leftists hate the state, and all religious people are bucking for a Messianic monarchy to replace our democracy. The wicked child brings nothing good to our conversation and I pray that we never become like him. I also pray that when we encounter the wicked child, we embrace her and take her in and show her that the other might not be so bad.
The simple child is my favorite. Because the simple child looks at the conflict and still has the purity to ask “Why?”. He just doesn’t get it. “No one really wants violence so why are people dying? Everyone wants the occupation to end so how has it lasted for half a century? Can’t we all just take a step back, take stock of what matters, and put down the guns and knives?” The simple child’s question rings true. No one wants to be at war so what is this? Why? I pray that we never become so jaded that we leave her behind, because without the simple child we are lost. When we look at all the bloodshed, I pray that our sadness and anger is always accompanied by bewilderment.
My biggest fear though is the child who does not know how to ask. For him the conflict does not pose any questions. It just is. There will be a war every few summers and a stabbing every few days. If we’re lucky our grandchildren will have peace but that word holds no meaning for us. This is the child we saw during the last elections when Sara Netanyahu’s bottles were a bigger issue than the occupation and this is the child it seems our government wants to raise. The child who does not know how to ask is one who has lost all hope. I pray that we always remember how to ask because our hope is not yet lost. And when we find someone who has forgotten to ask, may we remember the Haggadah’s instruction to “start the conversation with him” and advocate a vision of hope, optimism, and peace.