Rav Brazil: The Four Sons Within


rav-shmuel-brazil-1By Rav Shmuel Brazil

I would like to introduce the dvar Torah with a funny but not so funny story. A chossid from Warsaw told his friend that he was taking a week trip to Vilna, the city that within lay the legacy of the Vilna Gaon and in contrast possessed the strong element of a flourishing haskalah. After his return, he met up with his chossid friend who asked him to tell him some of the unusual sights that he saw in Vilna that warranted his trip. The chossid replied “I had an amazing experience on Shabbos.  First I walked into a shul Fri night and I saw an older man davening with such tremendous kavvanah and he was even crying even though it was Shabbos. After shul I saw a man on the street smoking openly without any shame. In the afternoon I heard an amazing pilpul shiur from an older person. Before shalsoh seudos I met a person who mamesh mocked a takanas chachamim in front of an entire chaburah without any boosha”. As he was about to continue, his friend interrupted and said “Yankel, Why did you have to take a trip to Vilna to see all of this when you could have just stayed in Warsaw and witness the same thing?  Upon which Yankel replied, “This is where you are wrong. The chiddush of  Vilna that I was relating about was that all those occurrences were done by the exact  same person. 

When we mention the four sons in the hagaddah we look and treat them as four individuals each one with a different personality and a varying level of spirituality. However it is also possible to learn that all four sons really are components of the same Yid. For in every Yid there is a chacham, rasha, tam, and an aino yodaiah lishoal personality. There are some mitzvos that we approach as the chacham, one who knows the halacha and is interested to seek out more information concerning its fulfillment even to the point of being machmir more that others. Unfortunately, sometimes this holier than thou attitude could even make the chacham look down at others or use his chachma to fulfill his taavos and cause others to do the same, as we will see in the description of the ben rasha.

Yet on the other hand this same individual has an attitude of a rasha in respect to another part of Torah. He knows that certain things are prohibited to do, yet nevertheless he is not interested to work on these inyanim. In fact he mocks others and cynically asks what is this service for you? Listen, I am chacham and I am telling you that you must realize that we live in modern day turbulent times of great upheaval. If we don’t allow talking in shul then we will lose the youth for they will not come or be affiliated. It is incumbent that we must show them that we have no part of that segment of the frum scary chareidi camp of black hatters.

Then there is the tam in us who is the simple son the naïve part who carte blanche accepts what others say. When it comes to something questionable that I would like to do, if I heard of a heter even if it be “bedieved”, count me right in even though I don’t know whether or not the machshir is of reliable standards. It is the tam personality that in these situations he finds it better not to ask because it is an issur deorayesah to embarrass the other people who seem to be taking this heter anyway. We must be sensitive to other peoples feelings and ideas.

And we yet have a fourth son in us the aino yodaah lishol. For example, when it comes to hilchos shabbos the Chofetz Chaim writes that if one does not constantly study the halachos he will definitely transgress Shabbos. Well how many of us have such a seder. We do not know how to ask a shailoh because we are not aware what the shailos are. The same is with kashrus and hilchos niddah. Ignorance is not  bliss in Torah observance.

We just finished the yom tov of Pesach. What has it accomplished for us besides that we have to start tomorrow a new diet? Freedom is the answer. Just as we must burn chametz from our possession so too we must rid the chametz that is inside of us which means all four sons. Pesach allows us to become free of the four sons personalities that turn our avodas Hashem into negative territory.. the night of the Seder lends the Yid an opportunity to shed light where there is darkness, to renew his commitment to Torah, to experience as if he just went of Mitzrayim which symbolizes all the constraints of the four sons that lurk inside of himself.

This is what the story of the all the tanaim in the haggadah who were awake the entire night of the seder relating the story of yetzias mitzrayim. At morning the talmidim came in and exclaimed it has already reached the time of the recital of shemah of shacharis. The question arises why weren’t the talmidim by their rebbis? The answer could be that they were. What they exclaimed we have arrived at the morning recital of shema has a more deeper meaning than what meets the eye. The rebbis of the students desired to impart to their talmidim such a great light of the night of redemption to the point where they could nullify within their hearts the four sons of negativity. When the students felt that this mission was truly accomplished and that the four sons were uprooted from within themselves, they approached their rabbeyim and exclaimed הגיע זמן קריאת שמע של שחרית  the yoke of heaven which is accepted by reciting the shemah has truly reached all the four sons hinted in the acronym of the word shacharis  חכם רשע תם  שחרית – שאינו יודע . The inners of the Yid that until this night was filled with 4 negative attitudes, was now enlightened and shed from its darkness, renewed with a fresh commitment to the shmirah of Torah and its mitzvos.

The night of the seder was the same night that Yitzchak gave to Yaakov the special berachos of  ויתן לך אלקים. This means that the night of the Seder even someone who on the outside looked like an Esav was able to be the recipient of this holiness. For Esav also contained the four sons in him. He was a chacham who learned in cheder and would ask his father shailos on certain issues such as maaser. Yet on the other hand, he didn’t care of fulfilling certain mitzvos at all. He sells his birthright and mocks it yet he sincerely cries when he realizes that Yaakov took his berachos. He was the tam and aino yodaiah lishol who didn’t look too deeply into things such as the lentils that was at the bottom of the soup but rather he just looked at the color which was not restricting or thought provoking, thereby resisting from inquiring at all about the soup’s contents. Yitzchok’s beracha was one to eradicate the four son personalities from Esav at the night of the Seder. Yitzchak is the gematria of 4 times the word בן   It was his intention to elevate the recipient of the beracha to reach the level of  טל השמים, משמני הארץ, רוב דגן, תירוש  which correspond to the four sons. He gave that beracha the night of the seder to Yaakov. This means that the night of Pesach and throughout the entire yom tov, every Yid has the ability to leave the four sons within oneself as hinted in the four leshonos of geulah and taste true freedom.

A Guten Shabbos.

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