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Thought for the Day: The Pesach Seder -- One Night Each Year Dedicated to Inspiring and Capturing the Imagination of Your Children

A hunter happened onto a farm owned by an old farmer -- no, really, and old farmer, who was a bit bent over, failing eyesight, hard of hearing, etc... but he got his job done each day.  Among the chickens, the hunter saw a bird that just didn't seem to belong, so he went to ask the farmer its story.  "Oh," said the farmer, "Some big bird must have gotten lost and laid its egg here.  The thing was nearly the size of a tennis ball!  It finally hatched and that thing appeared.  Honestly, that bird is nothing but trouble; doesn't even eat with the other chickens.  I'm just hoping when it'll grow to a good size so I can take it to the shochet and get a good price for all my trouble."  The hunter thanked the farmer and, as he was leaving, stopped by the bird and said, "Oy little bird... who is going to tell you that you are an eagle?"

The main intent of the Pesach seder is to tell the story of יציאת מצרים/the Exodus to our children.  Not reading the Hagadah, not asking the four questions in eight different languages to 12 different tunes, not singing songs, not eating matzoh balls, certainly not fancy exegetics; the job is to educate the children.  (The day meal is a great time for those fancy divrei torah you've been learning all month!)  Even in halacha, we see that the seder is supposed to start at the earliest possible moment; come home from shul immediately, table should be all set, simanim all prepared, etc.  The Hagadah, the songs, eating matzoh balls (and even some cool exegetics) are all there in support of one goal: engage the children.

So what?  We're all supposed to be master educators and inspirational speakers?  What if that just isn't us?  Yet every single Jewish household, from the gadol ha'dohr to the FFT (from from Tuesday) is expected to inspire himself and his children, to capture their imagination and engage them in such a way that that will themselves someday be sitting at the head of a seder table with their own children.

How do we do that?  I heard one very cool thought from R' Belsky on this topic.  One of the star attractions of the seder is the four sons: intellectual, detached, simple, uninterested; yes, I took some liberties in those translations, but I believe that makes them accurate.  The author of the Hagadah is telling you -- you, the leader of the seder -- how to engage your children.  The intellectual needs to be given details and depth.  Why?  because if you don't, he'll find depth somewhere else (physics, chas v'shalom, perhaps); you need to let him know that whatever intellectual stimulation he finds out there, he'll find much more in the Torah.  The simple child needs simple explanations.  You mustn't give him the feeling this is all to complicated; speak to him where he is.  The uninterested child needs to be stimulated.  There is plenty of excitement int story... dramatize it for him!

What about the detached child?  That child needs to be told the consequences of his detachment; if he detaches himself, HaShem will, chas v'shalom, give him his freedom -- freedom from his royal and exalted ancestry.  You need to recognize that he is an eagle and then you need to tell him.


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