Dotan Levi is Director of the Village Way Educational Institute and author of The Village Way Guidebook.
The Torah speaks of four children: one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who does not
know how to ask. Much has been said about these four children. The four boys and girls are actually, different types.
Four types that describe adolescence, or the teenagers, or peoples’ personalities. There are those who see the four children as four stages in life:
The first stage, in which we don’t know how to ask, is infancy, when we are just born.
Childhood is characterized as the simple stage, one in which we ask, “What is this?” “Why?” During adolescence we become a bit more like the wicked: alienated, defiant, asking, “What is this to you? Why are you doing these things? What is this nonsense?” And in our adulthood, we become a bit wiser.
There are those who can apply the four types to different subjects.
There are subjects for which we stand amazed, wondering, without knowing how to ask. In nuclear physics, I don’t know what to ask. The subject of mysticism puts me in the place of the simple, I naïvely ask “What is this?”
There are subjects that cause me to get angry, and feel alienated, I won’t go into detail what they are, but that really cause me to think “Why are people dealing with this nonsense? What is my connection to them?”
I hope that in the subjects of education and social sciences, I know how to ask some wiser questions.
So, the four types can be life stages, or applied to different subjects of interest, but of course they are also certain characteristics, or personality types.
How do teenagers act, according to the four types, during this time, this crisis, this pandemic, which is affecting us all?
We have the oblivious, those boys and girls who are unaware, who are the ones who don’t know how to ask: They sleep in late; they are zombies in front of the TV, something has changed.
And we have the simple ones, the naïve ones, who develop indifference (apathy) towards the current situation. They ask “What is this? What happened?” They don’t take to much of an interest.
We also have the alienated children, who feel like they don’t belong, who are very angry: “What is this nonsense? What are these guidelines? What do they want? What do they know about anything? What do they think – that I won’t leave my house? That I won’t go visit my grandma and grandpa?”
There are also the wise ones, sensible ones, who understand the reality, but also as wise ones are asking difficult questions. They look around at the reality, and sometimes have questions and comments that cause us to think differently about this reality.
If our teenagers have the privilege of acting like one of these for types, we as parents do not have that privilege. Parents and educators must be wise.
The wise ask difficult questions, but don’t break down and give up.
Wise parents and educators have to take the oblivious and indifferent children, and get them interested, to bring the reality to them and spark their interest in this reality, so that they ask questions, and then we must answer them according to their understanding, and a little beyond, always pulling them forward.
For those alienated teenagers, it is our responsibility as educators and parents to make them feel like they belong, to encourage them to do something for society: for their younger siblings, for their grandma and grandpa, to tell them that that we need them, we want them to help us. As soon as a person feels that he is needed, he already feels a stronger sense of belonging.
For those wise teenagers, who are connected to what is going on, we can look at them and take pride and satisfaction, but we have to know that during a time of crisis, it is also an appropriate response to break down, to rebel a bit.
It would be a very natural thing for those teenagers who act wisely with regards what is going on right now, might also break down. We need to be ready for those moments and accept them with understanding, that is part of being an adolescent in a reality of crisis. We, as educators and parents, need to try to create a feeling of belonging and meaning, also during the difficult and complex moments.
I want to wish to all those same parents, teachers, educators that we will get through the Passover holiday with happiness. Our festival of Spring has a sense of renewal and, the truth is at this time, that even though the warmth and reality of spring tells us to “go out into the world,” our common sense and our national guidelines tell us to stay inside.
This is the time to be with the family, with the boys and girls, also in the youth villages, the residential communities, also in our nuclear families.
Wishing you a happy holiday.