We mentioned last week that the chag of Pesach is the most family oriented chag of the year— as the Seder night experience is often built upon family minhagim and quality family time.
We noted as well that the family-oriented nature of the seder is by design—it is built into the evening’s make-up from the outset. It stems from the Torah’s unique mandate to commemorate the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim through לבנך ביום ההוא" והגדת” “and you should tell your son on that day.” We are commanded not simply to commemorate and celebrate leaving Egypt, but to make sure to tell the Exodus story to our children and grandchildren—to pass the narrative and its lessons on to future generations.
There is, however, a very basic and fundamental question that the commentaries ask regarding this obligation. Why specifically on the night of Pesach is there a special commandment for a parent to tell the story to his children? Isn’t a parent obligated to pass on all the mitzvot and chagim to his children? What is unique about Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim?
A few answers are suggested by the commentaries, but there is one answer that I heard many years ago that I believe is very relevant for us. Perhaps the reason that a parent must tell over the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim to their children is not simply because of what the parent can teach the child, but also because of what the child can teach the parent.
On the night of the Seder, there is a special obligation for each of us “...to see ourselves as if we left Egypt.” The mitzvah of Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim is not simply an intellectual mitzvah, but rather an experiential one—we are meant, on the Seder evening, to create an aura, an experience. The goal is not simply to tell the story of leaving Egypt, but to somehow feel as if we ourselves left.
It is for this reason that the Torah commands us to share this storytelling experience of Yetziat Mitzrayim with our children. One of the most extraordinary characteristics of children is their ability to fully experience things in a way that adults don’t and can’t. Their imagination, creativity and lack of self-awareness allows them to feel and experience life in a refreshing and invigorating way. The Torah tells us that if we truly want to feel “as if we left Egypt,” we must turn to our kids and tell the Exodus story to them and together with them. We need to watch how they experience the wonders of the story and through that, appreciate the freedom and happiness that we ourselves are meant to feel. On one of the most important nights of the year, the message of Chazal is clear—don’t underestimate what you can learn from your children. Don’t think that just because you are older, there is nothing you can learn from them. There will always be things that only children can teach us.
As parents, we have so much to teach our children. We are charged with raising them and shaping them into ovdei Hashem who are thoughtful and considerate individuals. It is a tremendous responsibility that should not be taken lightly. At the same time, even while we make sure to educate our children and continue to help them grow, we should never lose sight of the tremendous amount that we can learn from our children as well.
Wishing everyone a Chag Sameach!
By Rav Yossi Goldin