AN ONLY CHILDThe Haggadah
sings every year on the Seder night :×›× ×’×“ ××¨×‘×¢×” ×‘× ×™× ×“×‘×¨×” ×ª×•×¨×” : ××—×“ ×—×›× ××—×“ ×¨×©×¢ ××—×“ ×ª× ×•××—×“ ×©××™× ×• ×™×•×“×¢ ×œ×©××•×œ .The Torah referred to telling the story of the Exodus to four sons. One, the wise son. One, the evil son. One, the simple son. And one who doesnâ€™t know how to ask the four questions of the Seder night by himself… Why does the Haggadah say one, one, one, one. Just say smart, evil, simple and one who does not know how to ask? Another question. The Haggadah says that since this evil son makes it sound as if the whole story of the Exodus has nothing to do with him, knock out his teeth. If we do that, we may risk losing the son. He will never come back to the Seder for another year. And, despite our having knocked out his teeth, every year he still comes back, and every year he gets another few teeth knocked out. (He has probably learnt to come with fake teeth by now.) Why are we not afraid to lose him? And why does he keep coming back?
The answer is a lesson for parenting.Â Â A father can be either a biological father, who is technically a father, without the emotional traits expected of him. He just happens to be the kidâ€™s father. Or, he can be a father with the character traits appropriate to a parent. Â Fathers who are successful have secret elements that make them successful . One secret element that makes a father successful is that he looks at each child as his only child. Not just that the child is part of a group of kids. Or that the child must fit into a mold of the â€œFamilyâ€™s Wayâ€. Each child has his own way. Each child is writing his own life biography. If a father can be like this, respecting each child as if he is his own entity, with his own successes in life, his own opinions in lifeâ€¦ then such a child will never leave his father. And this is the secret of the Haggadah in parenting . One, One , One , One. And even if, at times, the parent sees that his evil son needs to be punished, and the boy is severely punished, he will be back next year. For he knows that in his fatherâ€™s eyes, no one can replace him.
We are taught (Shabbat 10b ) that a person should never act differently (and show favor) to one child over the other. For just a few threads that Yaakov added to the cloak of Yosef, more than was added to the cloak of the brothers, they envied him to no end. The result of this was that our forefathers went down to Egypt and suffered the bitter 210 years of slavery thereâ€¦.
Tosefot asks, how can the Talmud blame the whole slavery in Egypt on this parenting mistake of Yaakov? Werenâ€™t we supposed to go down to Egypt anyway, and be enslaved because of the 400 years decreed on Avraham at the Brit Ben Habetarim×•×¢×‘×“×•× ×•×¢× ×• ××•×ª× … (Breishit 15)? Was there not a decree on Avraham, establishing a period of 400 years during which his sons would not be able to live in the Land of Israel? Tosefot answers that the decree could have been fulfilled through his descendants, in that they were constantly on the go. ×’×¨ ×™×”×™×” ×–×¨×¢×š ×‘××¨×¥ ×œ× ×œ×”× From the time of Yitzchak, although our Forefatherâ€™s were given the Holy Land, they were not accepted by its inhabitants. This alone could have been a fulfillment of the decree. And the 400 years actually did start with the birth of Yitzchak. Still, the Talmud teaches us that all the bitter exile of having to go down and be slaves in Egypt was due to a parenting mistake of Yaakov. He favored one son over the other.
It has been said that the reason why we bring the karpas ×›×¨×¤×¡ to the seder table is because it is a reminder of the ×›×ª×•× ×ª ×¤×¡×™× ( ×›×¨ cloth ×¤×¡ stripe ) that Yaakov added to his son Yosef. (see Rashi on the passuk ×•×¢×©×” ×œ×• ×›×ª×•× ×ª ×¤×¡×™× . Rashi refers to the words ×›×¨×¤×¡ ×•×ª×›×œ×ª from M. Esther.) We dip it in the ×—×¨×•×¡×ª to remind us of the ten tribes dipping Yosefâ€™s cloak in the goatâ€™s blood. This was the cause of our slavery.
Now, Yaakov Avinu, of course, was not the type of father that makes parenting mistakes. (Even Leah, who was called ×©× ×•××” in comparison to Rachel, felt Yaakov’s favoritism for her sister only through Ruach Hakodesh. Not from Yaakov.) Our Rabbis tell us that Yaakov made ketonot (cloaks) for the rest of his sons, as well. He made them stripes with the same material of Argaman. The only difference was that for Yosef, this material of Argaman (purple dyed wool) went all the way down to the cuff, the end of the sleeve of the cloak.(see Rashi on Shabbat 10b ; B. Rabbah) It was just a difference of 2 ×¡×œ×¢×™× , 20 gram of material, a minute difference. And, Yosef, who was smarter than his brothers and to whom Yaakov taught all the Torah that he had learnt at Yeshivat Shem VaEver, created a unique relationship with his father. They were very close, much closer than the other brothers were to Yaakov. Yosef did lose his mother. And the brothers of Yosef were greater tzaddikim than any we had ever known. Yaakov must have believed that there were enough variables here that Yosefâ€™s brothers would not take this personally. Still, just giving one child more, a drop more, a few more purple strings that went down to the sleeve, was enough to be considered THE parenting mistake of our nation. Why? Because this caused the other brothers to feel, at the time, that they were just â€œthe brothersâ€â€¦
Avraham Avinu, the father of our nation, displayed this fatherliness trait as well. When G-d asked him to offer his beloved, special son up on the altar, ××ª ×‘× ×š ××ª ×™×—×™×“×š ××©×¨ ××”×‘×ª, ××ª ×™×¦×—×§ – he asked G-d which beloved son. Which special, unique son, Yitzchak or Yishmael. Until finally, G-d had to tell him that He was referring to his son, Yitzchak. This is after the Torah said that Yishmael had sinned the three cardinal sins. ×•×ª×¨× ×©×¨×” ××ª ×‘×Ÿ ×”×’×¨ ×”×ž×¦×¨×™×ª ××©×¨ ×™×œ×“×” ×œ××‘×¨×”× ×ž×¦×—×§ There is supposed to be a special place in the heart of a father for each and every child. No matter what path the child takes, each child is an only child in his own way.
I always wondered why Rachel Imeinu got the title of being the mother of the Jewish Nation, more than Leah. I heard this idea in the name of Râ€™ Pam.×§×•×œ ×‘×¨×ž×” × ×©×ž×¢ ..×ž×× ×” ×œ×”× ×—× ×¢×œ ×‘× ×™×” ×›×™ ××™× × ×•… Mother Rachel cries in the Heavens, not willing to be consoled over her children that are not at home, Eretz Yisroel, physically and spiritually… Let us get down to the singular/plural rule of the Hebrew language. ×ž×× ×” ×œ×”× ×—× ×¢×œ ×‘× ×™×” ×›×™ ××™× × ×• She refuses to be consoled over her sons (plural) for he(singular) is not there. Why the switch?
The reason why Rachel is the mother of the Jewish nation is that although she cries for the Jewish Nation as a whole, for their being in a physical and spiritual exile, she sheds a special tear for each and every one of her children. This is the way we hold on to our children. By letting them feel that we love each and every one of them with a unique love for who they are. Each one has his own purpose in life. And just as it is ridiculous to love one finger more than the other fingers of the hand, for each has its own purpose, it is senseless to love one child more than the other.