The Fourth Child

Once and again - I find myself asking.

What is this holiday about? This annual rite and ritual and essential part of the coming of spring?

We gather. We share. We eat. We celebrate. We sing. We tell and re-tell the stories of Passover....of the Jews and their exodus from tyrrany and bondage. We drink four cups of wine..we ask the four questions..and we answer to the four different types of children who sit around our table.

This year - somehow - I'm thinking about the children. The 'wise' and the 'wicked'...the 'simple' and the 'one who knows not how to ask'.

I'm thinking about the labels we put to others..and to ourselves. The words we use to self-identify. The ones we've carried with us since childhood..and into today. Those words that define and confine us...that not only dictate who we are..but who we might someday be.

The 'wise' child - is understood to be the 'good' one. The one who has learned early in life how to please..and how to ask that all-important just right question. It makes her a good student - yes. But  - how does that make her wise? I wonder.

The 'wicked' child  - is known to be challenging and contrary...the 'difficult' one. But - perhaps this child is simply being bold and bravely honest. Perhaps this child speaks from the belief and conviction of her heart.

The 'simple' - it is implied - is the one who is limited in her understanding of things. Or maybe - not. Maybe - the simplicity is in the lack of complexity..the groundedness..the ease in which she moves thru her world.

And then - there's that last..almost overlooked and forgotten one. The one 'who knows not how to ask'. The silent observer. The quiet one. The one who has cultivated stillness and awareness...who is taking it all in without speaking a single word.

Again - I'm asking. What is this holiday about?

At its core - we're celebrating the journey from oppression to redemption..to the universal and eternal right to be free. We're celebrating the passage of the Jews - yes. We're also celebrating the journey of our own hearts and souls. To shed those labels that define and confine and enslave us. To our right to be true to who and all that we might be.

The 'wise'..the 'wicked'..the 'simple'..or the one 'who does not know' how to ask. I'd like to think of myself as occasionally wise...often wicked...forever simple...and proudly  - the one who chooses to be that quiet one who needs not always speak out loud and ask.

This year - I'll gather. I'll share. I'll eat and drink and celebrate. Not only the journey of our forefathers and mothers...but my own. For forty years following their exodus from Egypt - the Jews wandered in the desert before finding and settling into their home.

It sounds like a long time. It sounds like a life time. It sounds like just about the right amount of time - to me.