When the Kids are at the Table

Seder at the Jewish Welfare Board

And when your children say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’ You shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, because God passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when God smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses.’” (Ex. 12:26-27)

No, you haven’t slept through the winter and woken up at the seder!

Welcome to the rasha, the “wicked” or “contrary” child, the second of four “sons” presented in a brilliant narrative in our Passover Haggadah. This midrash, commonly referred to as “The Four Sons” or “The Four Children,” illustrates the commandment to tell our children, and our children’s children, about the going out of Egypt and the wonders and miracles that God performed for us. Whether we follow a script in the form of a printed Haggadah or create a bibliodrama, we are commanded to tell the story, and to imagine ourselves as having been slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.

This reading in our Passover Haggadah serves many purposes, and one is to remind us that there are many levels of understanding; there are many ways to ask questions and many appropriate ways to answer them. The chacham, the wise child, asks detailed questions and should receive detailed answers. The tam, or “simple” child asks simple questions and should be given brief, direct answers. The rasha, to which the verse in this week’s Torah reading refers, is considered to be a “wicked” or “contrary” child because his question, ending with the word, lachem–“to you”– suggested to our ancient Sages that this child had no interest in the history, tradition or rituals of his family and people. Warranted or not, this child receives a harsh response. More importantly, we are to respond to him and engage him, not ignore him.

The final child, she-ayno lo yodeah lishol, “the one who isn’t able to ask,” reminds us that we can’t always wait for questions to be asked, we need to take the initiative and begin. When our children ask, “What was it like when you were my age?” or, “Tell me what my father did when he was my age,” we can usually answer fairly easily, even if we edit or embellish a bit.

As parents, grandparents and elders in the community, this last one might be the hardest to deal with. Will our children ask us things like, “What do you wish you knew when you were my age?” “What would you do differently if you had to do life over?” “What do you want me to know”?

As a 50-something orphan, there are so many questions I wish I’d asked my parents, but either I didn’t think to, or I was afraid of the answer. I am the she ayno lo yodeah lishol, unable to ask. In fairness, my parents and grandparents probably didn’t know where to begin.

The commandment to tell the Passover story in every generation can serve as a reminder to all of us, to tell our family stories–the happy and painful ones–and share our hopes and dreams with those who will inherit the world from us.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Latest Sermons

Shoftim: Can Destruction be Just?
Shoftim: Can Destruction be Just?

Photo: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. The spotted lantern fly has arrived in our area, and we’re being advised to squash them if we see them. This bug has no natural...

VaEtchanan: Until His Final Breath
VaEtchanan: Until His Final Breath

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/maltin75/6278446183 “Observe God’s laws and commandments, which I enjoin upon you this day, that it may go well with you and your children after you, and that you may long remain in the land that the LORD your God is assigning to you...

Parshat Pinchas: Looking For the Good
Parshat Pinchas: Looking For the Good

Photo: COSV from Wikimedia Commons. Women Gathering Wood, South Sudan My friend Sylvia (who says I’m her favorite female rabbi) is almost 98–may she live and be well–and is often troubled by the harsher judgments and more problematic passages in the Torah. And rightly...

Latest Midrash HaZak

Ekev: Standing on their Shoulders
Ekev: Standing on their Shoulders

  Credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buff_Bill's_Circus Parashat Ekev Rabbi Arnie Samlan Ekev, the third reading in the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), is a continuation of Moses’ farewell address to the Israelite nation poised to enter the Promised Land....

VaEtchanan: Rav Lach, It Is Enough For You
VaEtchanan: Rav Lach, It Is Enough For You

Photo by Rabbi Susan Elkodsi Va’Etchanan: Rav Lach, It is enough for you Rabbi Janet Madden, Ph.D Parshat Va’Etchanan opens with Moshe’s recounting to the new generation of Israelites that he pleaded with the Holy One to allow him to enter the Land of Israel. He...

Massei: The Journals of the Journeys
Massei: The Journals of the Journeys

Parashat Massei: The Journal of the Journeys Rabbi Ron Isaacs In 1960 I spent the summer at Camp Ramah in Canada. Advertised as a Hebrew-speaking camp, it was my first summer away from home. I decided to document my 8-week summer by keeping a diary which I still have...

Latest Personal Blogs

Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem
Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem

This past week, I participated in a Ritualwell class with Alden Solovy on "Writing From One Word of Torah." I distilled 3 stream-of-consciousness prompts on the word "Baruch/Berekh," the root of which can mean "blessing' and "knee, into this poem. Blessing my bended...

The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives
The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives An email from My Jewish Learning about “A Woman of Valor” prompted me to pivot the next evening’s planned adult learning session to looking at these 22 verses from Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs. These verses...

Live Long and Prosper?
Live Long and Prosper?

By Oklahoma Heritage Association, Gaylord-Pickens Museum - Author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25656727 Live Long and Prosper? January 5, 2022 began the third year of the seven and a half-year cycle of Daf Yomi, the practice of...

Pin It on Pinterest