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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

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Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
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Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

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Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

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Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

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The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 29, 2007 / 10 Nissan, 5767

The “Four Sons” — and their Fathers

By Dr. Jacob Mermelstein


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The consequence and its antecedents


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Once again we will shortly be sitting at our Seder table, enjoying the festival and gleaning from the text of the Haggadah ever new insights concerning our history, life, and human behavior.

A favorite source of inspiration and wisdom of the Seder night, is the theme of the Four Sons, the nature of their behavior, and how they are to be dealt with. There is, moreover, a gnawing question that demands an answer — why indeed are they different? Why does one son grow up to be wise, while another turns out to be wicked; why is one simple, and one cannot even ask a question?

Obviously, each one in his own way, is the product of a unique home, an environment which has fostered typical behavior, a set of antecedents with its inevitable consequence.

If one may be permitted the license of interweaving drash (homilies) with what is known as human behavior, a picture unfolds that seems to clearly indicate what is it that fashions each son into what and who he now is. It would seem that not only does each parent answer his child in a unique and particular way — indeed, he has done so habitually for many years and thus has brought about the child's now typical behavior. For the way a parent deals with the child is not simply a reaction to the youngster; it, in turn, shapes his subsequent behavior. It is these countless reactions and subsequent actions that sum up and become the person's personality.


THE WISE SON — AND HIS PARENTS
The Wise Son — what does he ask? "What is the nature of the laws and judgments?" He is inquisitive and asks in detail again and again. And his father is equally wise and patient and he tells him all the laws of Passover. This parent is not abrupt, he does not mind being nagged by his inquisitive son, he answers him and talks to him a great deal. The result is that this father is developing a truly wise son, a reasoning and questioning individual.

Recent research seems to confirm what has long been suspected — that the ability to learn and act intelligently is to a substantial extent based upon experiences in early life. This does not, to be sure, deny the importance of genetics. It merely points out that equally important is the way one's hereditary endowment is being used.

Intelligence has been likened to a rubber band. Each of us is born with one that's of a particular size in thickness and circumference. One can be born endowed with relatively little. But this little amount can, in a proper environment, be stretched and enlarged. Conversely, one can be endowed with much intelligence. An impoverished learning environment, however, — one that does not make use of this ability but restricts it — will cause its initially great endowment to shrink, become brittle, and eventually break.

The wise parent who has produced the wise son has from early childhood onward expanded the child's environment. He has made available to him many experiences and has stood by him ever ready to teach and to answer — and prepare him for all subsequent learning and wisdom.


THE WICKED SON — AND HIS PARENTS
The wicked son impatiently asks: "What is the meaning of all this work for you?" He doesn't reason, nor does he question. All endeavors are classified as work — a chore, an unnecessary burden.

At times, he has been conditioned to behave in this manner because his parents have stifled his desire to ask the right questions. He may have been told constantly to obey blindly, without being given inspiration and understanding. The result, of course, is a wicked, uninterested and impatient son, to whom all work is unnecessary drudgery.

When children are disciplined in a harsh and arbitrary manner, they cannot help but view their environment as harsh — and react in kind. When questioning is forbidden, reasoning ceases — and they act in a self-defeating manner, one that hurts not only society, but themselves as well. They are in conflict both with society and with themselves.


THE SIMPLE SON — AND HIS PARENTS
The simple son asks: "What is this?" He is neither inquisitive nor impatient. He is simple, foolish and emotionally flat. His parents didn't stifle him but neither did they stimulate him. And thus the parent now says in simple terms: "With a strong hand G-d took us out of Egypt."

The child has not been neglected physically nor harshly dealt with. But he has suffered a lot from a lack of interpersonal contact. His parents were too busy to converse with him beyond the simple and everyday needs.

Children in orphanages, or otherwise separated from their parents, are frequently found to be intellectually impoverished and emotionally disturbed. It is believed that this is due to lack of stimulation and consistent with interpersonal experiences with a parent or parent surrogate. This is in spite of adequate physical care.

The parent of the simple son, then, may have provided for him everything except the all-important interpersonal experiences, and thus impoverished him intellectually and emotionally.


THE ONE WHO DOES NOT EVEN KNOW HOW TO ASK — AND HIS PARENTS
The One Who Doesn't Even Know How To Ask a question does not speak, because he doesn't find it necessary to do so. His parent, as the text tells us, "opens his mouth for him." He is spoon-fed and over-protected, all is provided for him ready made. He does not experiment nor exert himself, for there is no need to do so.

The story is told of the child who never spoke a single word. His parents consulted the pediatrician and psychologist, the educator and philosopher — none could explain why. One day, the little boy sat down to eat his breakfast. He took the spoon and led it to his mouth — and suddenly exclaimed: "THIS CEREAL IS TOO HOT!" The overjoyed parents summoned the experts, who were as astounded by this sudden utterance as they had been by his silence. They probed and examined — still no explanation. Then one bold scientist ventured to ask the boy: "Pray tell us why you have spoken now after all these years of silence?" Unhesitant, the little boy replied: "it's simple — you see until now, there was no need to speak for everything was perfect."

Occasionally, one meets such a child, and his story may apply. More often, though, one sees children who do communicate but somehow do not venture into the world of others. They live in a shell, a fantasy of unending joy where others stand ever-ready to serve their every need. This parent tried to do so much and thereby stifled the child's need to master his environment, to seek and to question and learn how to lead a life of his own eventually.


THE FOUR SONS — AND THEIR FATHERS
The wise and the wicked, the simple and the one who does not even know how to ask a question. How to deal with them now may be less important than how they come to be that way.

Children are born with more or less genetic endowment. There is little that can be done about this. The parent's task is to use that which has been given to his child and expand it. True, every man's capacity does have some limit. The outstanding among us are not necessarily those who have been more generously endowed. They are the ones who have used what they have been given to the fullest — and whose parents have laid the necessary foundations early in life.

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Dr. Jacob Mermelstein is a practicing psychologist, certified both in New York and New Jersey. To comment, please click here.

© 2007, Torah Umesorah