Pesach is coming up, and like every year, I find myself remembering the mitzvah of “V’higadeta l’vincha” (“and you should tell your children”). With this mitzvah, the Torah is commanding us to sit and talk to our children, to pass down the Pesach story to them in a way that they can understand. Although every year I wonder why this idea of retelling the Pesach story to our children is so important, this year I am beginning to understand.
In our classroom, the emphasis is always on the students, and our lessons are planned to provide access to information and ideas in ways the children will best relate to them. One of the best ways to do this is by giving the children space and opportunities to ask questions. I constantly encourage the students to ask questions and debate. I believe this helps them know that their voices and opinions are important and valid. For example, when they have an opinion to share, we make a point of announcing it by using their initials as an acronym, in the style of the Talmudic sages. They love hearing me proclaim “The SZ (ie: Shternie Zwiebel) says…” just like we do when we discuss the thoughts and teachings of our rabbis.
This idea is perfectly in line with the Pesach seder. The entire seder is based on promoting our children’s questions. “V’higadeta l’vincha” is important, and it is most important because of what it takes to get to that point. The Pesach seder is a back and forth and it is through this exchange that we build on the importance of the relationship between asking and answering questions and of exchanging and debating ideas with our children. In order for us to pass down the Pesach story, our children first need to ask. We want them to ask, and they want to hear our answers. It won’t work without both sides listening to each other, without our efforts to get the children involved.
This year in the 1st/2nd grade classroom, the students created their own book of curious questions and comments emerging from what they learned about Pesach. The book is a way of validating our students’ opinions and questions and letting them own their experience in their own way. When they bring this book to the seder, it stops being something that happens around them and begins to be something that they can contribute to by sharing the ideas they composed in their books.
So this Pesach, let’s take the lesson of “V’higadeta
l’vincha” to heart and make our children the center of attention. They are the next generation of leaders and teachers – they deserve it.