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Honor thy Children (They’ll choose your nursing home)

by Rabbi Manis Friedman


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Every year, we hold the Passover Seder. Every year, we have the Four Sons ask their questions. Every year, the Wicked Son at the Seder asks his bitter question and gets a nasty response. Why doesn’t he learn?

The Wise Son certainly has a good thing going: every year, he asks an intelligent question, gets applause and approval from his parents, then comes back the next year and asks the same question. But the Wicked Son is wicked, not stupid. Why is it that he asks the same wicked question each year, knowing that he’ll get told off?

The Wise Son knows what he needs to do to win his parents’ approval. That is his wisdom; he is wise as a son. So the Wicked Son knows that by asking the same question again, he’ll again receive his parents’ disapproval. That is his wickedness; he is wicked as a son.

But the Wicked Son can’t continue being wicked. Eventually he will realize that without his parents’ approval he has no foundation on which to build his own life. He cannot become his own person if he hasn’t satisfied a prior need: the need to win his parents’ approval and be the kind of person that his parents want him to be.

We must teach our children...that winning approval is a necessary, healthy, inevitable ingredient in growing up
The success of a child — indeed, the success of childhood — depends on successfully making one’s parents proud. We must teach our children how to honor their parents, not out of selfishness or because we “want respect,” but to give them the opportunity to win approval. We must show them that winning approval is a necessary, healthy, inevitable ingredient in growing up.

Thus, if you don’t want to raise the “Wicked Son,” there is a simple answer: Have your children set the table. Have them carry the shopping bags. Let them pick up the dry cleaning. All the tasks that you, as the parent, would do for yourself — make your children do it for you.

Do this not for your own convenience or ego-aggrandizement, but because you honor them by doing it. Give your children the opportunity to express their honor for you. Give them an opportunity to win your approval and when they do, let them know it.

After all, shouldn’t raising children include encouraging the child to succeed at actually being a child? In this day and age, that’s easy to forget. We push our children to “grow up.” We push them to study hard so they can get into good schools. We push them to get fancy degrees because they’ll “need them for a good job.”

The Wicked Son not only suffers the indignity of never growing up—he also has never experienced the awe of being a child. That’s why, before we push our kids to success, we must first help them be successful children. The way to do this is, curiously, to follow their lead.

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe told a story that helps clarify things. One day, as a child of seven, he asked his father why he had two eyes. His father told him that our eyes are like the two dots over the Hebrew letters “shin” and “cin.” When the dot is on the right side, the letter is “shin” and it has a strong pronunciation. When the dot is on the left side, the letter is “cin” and it has a soft pronunciation. Right side is strong, left side is soft. Thus our strong right eye is to be used when looking towards our fellow man, while our weak left eye is to be used when looking at toys and candy. That, his father concluded, is why G-d gave us two eyes.


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Mitzvot » Education
Holidays » Passover » Seder » The Haggadah

A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.