The famous four sons of the Pesach seder are based on four verses in the Torah which provide the foundation for the greatest miracle of Jewish history. It’s not the splitting of the Reed Sea, or of the Jordan. It’s the fact that the story of our people has not only been faithfully transmitted from generation to generation for 4,000 years of wandering, war, persecution, dispersal and ingathering, but that it has continued to animate and guide an entire people’s daily life.
Like every set of 4 in the Pesach seder, there is also a 5th which goes unmentioned (the reason why is the topic for another lesson). The 5th son appears in Yehoshua, chapter 4. “When your sons ask their fathers tomorrow, saying, what are these stones? You will let your children know, saying, on dry ground did Israel cross this Jordan” (4:21-22).
This 5th son completes the set of 4 sons whose learning begins with a question. Wikipedia claims that the pedagogical method known as ” inquiry based learning” was developed in the 1960s. But long before that, the Torah taught us that the key to education is creating opportunities for children to ask questions. The motto of the ultimate showcase of Jewish education, the Pesach seder which to this day is one of the most widely observed Jewish rituals (it’s not even just for Jews anymore), is “so the children will ask”. While some schools, especially religious ones, fear what questioning can bring, the Torah’s approach is that a school that discourages questioning, discourages life-long learning.