The beloved text that Jews recite around the Passover table — known as the Haggadah — tells us that the Torah speaks of four children: a wise one, a wicked one, a simple one, and one who asks no questions.
Isn’t it remarkable that the same set of parents can produce such diverse offspring? Isn’t it curious that siblings sharing the same essential genetic material, raised under the same roof can be so utterly different? And yet, the Haggadah’s account rings true. Most parents will attest that each of their children is a unique individual.
Human beings are not mass-produced and, accordingly, will never fit the same mold. While we should certainly strive to raise all our sons and daughters as God-fearing, responsible members of the community, we must recognize that each must be educated in a way that takes his/her own personality, potential, and orientation into account. What will be effective with one will not be effective with another. That is why Scripture instructs us to “Teach each child in his own way” (Proverbs 22:6).
The father in the Haggadah is a master educator. He knows each of his youngsters through and through. With the wise he is delightfully provocative. With the wicked he is shrewdly firm. With the simple he is patient and understanding. For the clueless he provides a loving, helpful hand.
Let us remember that no two children are exactly alike — not even twins (e.g. Jacob and Esau). May we see the strengths and weaknesses, the capacities and limitations of each as an individual; and may we have the fortitude, compassion, and creativity to draw out the best in every one of them.
Ginsburg leads Congregation Sons of Israel in Woodmere.