Passover and Education
The primary purpose of the Passover Seder is to ensure that the story of the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt is transmitted to the next generation. The Torah tells us that we must relay the story of the exodus to our children. The customary ‘four questions’ emphasize this purpose; and are traditionally ‘asked’ at the beginning of the Seder, to ensure that the children are still awake, and involved.
As with everything in Judaism, the observance of Passover is a microcosm of our religion in general. Most of our Jewish life is dedicated to ‘the future’ – our children. For some, the sole reason for maintaining membership at their synagogue or temple is for the children. For others, it is the Shabbat dinner which the family celebrates as long as the kids are still young. And still others, the only purpose in associating themselves with our ancestors' heritage is for our offspring to ‘know where they came from.’
To be sure, this may seem hypocritical. And when the child gets a bit older, he or she will see through the ostensible charade being put on for their sake. They may even rebel, claiming that “you [the parent] don’t believe in it yourself, why are you forcing me to suffer through it?”
But, the solution to this is not to cease caring for our children’s Jewish education. Nor is it to change our own behavior overnight. The vibes the child should be getting from us should reflect true commitment. Even if one isn’t completely observant, it should not negate their children receiving a proper Jewish education. And by education, I mean that the child learns to appreciate religion as something that they can relate to. If a child sees that the parents are committed, he or she will feel more comfortable with their own Judaism.
Teaching by example is the highest form of education. By observing Passover, or any other Jewish observance, with the intent of the children benefiting, we ourselves will also begin feeling a higher sense of commitment. When children experience an authentic feeling towards ‘Yiddishkeit,’ the feeling should boomerang and rub off on the parents. So, when the time comes and our children are no longer home, we will continue with the Shabbat observance, because it is meaningful to us as well.
To take this a step further:
When referring to children, I do not necessarily mean to limit ‘education’ to biological minors. Sometimes one who is a ‘child’ Jewishly, also requires that extra encouragement from an acquaintance. Just because someone is middle-aged, does not imply that they are beyond being educated. And just because your own observance is not perfect, does not suggest that you cannot teach others. You can teach what you know. And when you learn more, pass that along too.
And, similar to the effect educating children can have, by teaching and showing an example for ‘spiritual’ minors, we too will benefit and grow in our own relationship with G-d.