The Four Generations

The Four Generations


According to Rabbi Yitzchak Nisenbaum, The “Arba Banim”, literally “ The Four Sons” at the Passover Seder can be looked at as “The Four Generations”: parent, child, grandchild and great grandchild.


The “Chacham”, the wise child, symbolizes the old generation, the grandfather whose entire lifestyle and outlook testify to his being Jewish.


The “Rasha”, the wicked child, symbolizes the second generation. He is the son of the “Chacham”. In his father’s home he was educated in Torah but he became a rebel and began to annoy the older generation with his inquisitive questions.


The “Tam”, the simple child, symbolizes the third generation. He is the son of the “Rasha” and grandchild of the “Chacham”. When he went to his grandfather’s house, he saw the tradition being followed and he would ask: Why is my grandfather observant? Why is my father not observant?


The “SheEino Yodea Lishol”, “One Who Doesn’t Even Know How to Ask” symbolizes the fourth generation. When the great grandchild was born, the great grandfather was no longer alive. He never saw Jewish tradition in his father’s or grandfather’s home so he doesn’t even know what to ask about.


The Hagada tells us to start the conversation with the “ShEino Yodea Lishol”. This generation that does not know tradition at all can start from scratch and has the opportunity of returning to their roots.


There is a comic by Michel Kichka Called “Four Daughters, Four Generations” which depicts a grandmother wearing a dress with her hair covered reading Tehilim (Psalms), the second generation is her daughter who is smoking and reading a book by Amos Oz (Modern Secular Israeli literature), the third generation is the granddaughter who is reading the Hebrew newspaper and the fourth generation is the baby who is sitting under the table reading a book upside down.


We see this very clearly in Israel today. The new generation that grew up without the tradition is searching for their roots and for spirituality. If the observant population can serve as inclusive and welcoming role models then there will be more incentive for the new generation to want to return to their roots and to their tradition.