Ra’anana Community Kollel
And You Shall Tell Your Children …
Rabbi Yirmiyahu Abramov
The Pesach Seder is ripe with many Mitzvot. In today’s day and age, the fulfillment of the mitzvot of matzah, maror, and the four cups of wine, have been rendered quite easy to fulfill, owed to the proliferation of kosher for pesach products.
The most integral mitzvah however is one that is more vague and therefore, more elusive to us to fulfill. The mitzvah is that of sipur yetziat mitzrayim, the telling of the exodus from Egypt. The Torah teaches us that this mitzvah is performed by communicating the story to our children. The degree of fulfillment of this mitzvah is dependent on the receptivity of our children to accept that which we want to communicate. It is therefore crucial to view the Seder forum as a vehicle for inspiring our children, not as a platform for portraying our intellectual acumen in Torah with hair splitting exegesis.
The mitzvah of the Seder is to impart to our children that we are all part of a wondrous system in history. We are part of a people that are unique, special, and miraculous. The Pesach Seder is the opportunity of the year to bridge the generation gap that plagues our times today. The tensions that exist between parents and children can dissolve within the course of the evening, to be replaced by bonds of togetherness that come through appreciating a common history and heritage.
The Haggadah begins by describing the low and troubled times of the Jews’ beginnings. We were slaves to Paroah in Egypt; our fathers were idol worshippers. Our children have to be knowledgeable and appreciate the trials and tribulations of our people, in order to feel strength and pride for our heritage. Our children have to feel inspiration that they are part of a glorious system, a system so worthwhile that our ancestors have suffered persecutions for thousands of years.The structure of the Haggadah is that of question and answer. The reason being that the Sages in their wisdom knew that an interactive discussion is more effective in drawing a person in than is a one-sided lecture. Our goal on this night is to draw our children into a vibrant discussion on what it means to be a Jew. If one has to digress from the text in order to achieve these objectives, then let him do so. If one has to perform strange acts to provoke the children to ask, then let him do so. Many of the customs and rituals within the Seder were instituted solely for the purpose of provoking questions. The Haggadah is merely a structure adopted to create the environment in which to inspire our children. Although it is of vital importance to recite the words of the Haggadah, one shouldn’t feel limited to its verses, because it is the inspiration that the Torah is seeking. Each household must relay the ideas of the Seder according to its way.
A mitzvah as important and difficult as this one needs preparation and thought on the part of the parents. Let’s discuss beforehand what we want to relay to our kids. Is it pride for our people; pride for our land; appreciating what our grandparents went through in the Holocaust? Whatever the approach, let’s make sure that it is exciting and interesting for our children, and that it is relayed to them with utmost sincerity. The Sages say, “Words that are expressed from the heart will penetrate the heart.”
If the Seder is primarily a lip service to us, then the message of the Seder will become lost and will not be internalized in our children. Our children will only be inspired if we are inspiring. Let’s take the time to delve into our own hearts to determine what about Judaism is dear to us and then attempt to impart these feeling into our children.
Our job as parents on Passover night is to show our children that there is more to Judaism than what meets the eye; and with a little bit of inspiration and education we can all grow to realize that we are indeed first class passengers on this trip called life.