Seder focussed on children

March 27, 2018 by Shula Lazar
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The way in which the Seder is constructed has much to teach us about parenting and education.

Shula Lazar

One of the most important, seminal nights of the Jewish calendar is focussed and centred on children. So many of the mihagim (customs) of the Seder are done specifically to ignite curiosity and bring about engagement in the rituals of Pesach. The Seder puts the child in the centre of a learning journey, prompting them to question, to absorb and to seek answers from those who share the Seder table with them.

Long before the buzz word of ‘experiential learning’ permeated the doctoral dissertations of Jewish educators, the Rabbis of the Mishna carefully crafted the ultimate experiential learning experience for our children on Seder night. The bitterness of the slavery is recreated through touch, sight, taste and smell; the joy of redemption is experienced by behaving like kings as we lean and drink our 4 cups of grape juice. When reading through the passages after the plagues where each Rabbi multiplies the miracles, once senses the awe and the elation of the Jewish people as they embarked on their new found freedom.

But the true genius of the Seder lies in its balance of competing forces. We remember slavery and celebrate freedom; it is not all one or the other. A Seder night that focusses on either slavery or freedom at the expense of the other would not justly represent the events of the exodus. We dip our vegetables in salt water to remember the tears of our forefathers, but also drink in celebration of the emancipation; we eat bitter herbs but do so after we have made a blessing. The matzah is a contradiction within itself; on the one hand it is the bread of affliction, food of the poor and enslaved. On the other hand, it is the bread that we made in haste as we were leaving Egypt and therefore a symbol of freedom.

Rabbi Norman Lamm states that ‘in the age of polarisation, it is important to point out the danger of ‘too much of a good thing’ and that any value, when taken to an extreme, can be corrupted. “We need a dialectic of values, a harmonisation of competing goods. We need freedom and responsibility; peace and self-defence; love and morality; patience and toughness; discipline and independent thinking”.

When we look at the Seder and all its competing components, the message of balance rings loud and clear. Like Hillel, who would make a sandwich of matzah and maror (bitter herbs) and eat them together, we must manage to combine sometimes competing virtues and not overdo either one at the expense of the other.

So this year, as we lead our children through the most exciting, family-focussed learning experience of the year, let us be cognisant of the importance of balance. I encourage you to acknowledge that the energy created by opposing forces can be harnessed, focussed and merged to bring about more goodness for this world.

Wishing everyone a Pesach Kasher ve’Sameach,

Shula Lazar is the principal of Carmel School, Perth


One Response to “Seder focussed on children”
  1. vivienne wenig says:

    this is one powerful jewish educator!

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