Kenneth Cohen

Educating Our Children

The section of the “Four sons” in the Haggadah is really meant for us to understand how serious the issue of educating our children, really is.

The famous verse from Mishlei, חנוך נער לפי דרכו, that we are to educate our youth according to his path, must be taken seriously. It appears that the challenge of the Haggadah, seems to focus on the middle two sons; the simple son, and the one who does not know how to ask.

The wise son doesn’t require much work. He is self motivated and doesn’t need much prodding for him to do the right thing. The wicked son is almost a loss cause. He does not see himself as part of Am Yisrael. Something dramatic must take place, to shake him up, and allow him to mend his ways.

Most likely our own situation involves the simple son, who displays great apathy towards religious practices. The one who does not know how to ask, is already so far away from his Judaism, that he doesn’t even know what to ask.

The book, “Off the Derech,” did a thorough study as to why once observant Jews, choose to separate from religious practices. The basic conclusion as to the major problem in keeping our youth committed to religious practices, was that there are simply too many choices of paths that one might take.

There are numerous lifestyles that might appear to be more attractive and less confining.

It is our task as parents and educators to be aware of this reality. There is a much greater burden placed on us in probably the most important area. That is, that the greatest educational tool that we have, is the example we personally set. Our children and students watch our every move. They are looking for consistency on our part, as well as living according to high ethical standards. If we are not setting such an example, where we show how much our Judaism means to us, we have lost the battle.

The enticements to lure away our children, are out there, and they are many. There are no guarantees as to which of the Passover’s four sons, ours will emulate. But if we have any real chance of influencing them, it will primarily come by the example we set. We may even be able to turn the wicked, apathetic, and ignorant, into the wise son!

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at