April 18, 2024
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How You Shall Tell Your Son

The need for continuous and inspired parent-child dialogue is about as deep a Jewish value as you will find. For millennia, we have used such communication as a means of inculcating within our offspring a deep sense of religious connection and understanding, while also keeping them focused on proper behaviors and values. In fact, the concept dates back to our national inception, and has served as a basic charge in terms of how we recount our exodus from Egyptian bondage. “And you shall tell your child on this day…” (Shemot 13:8)

In the words of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch:

Tell it to your child… We are asked to accompany the practical observance of every religious precept, which our children see us perform and which we seek to teach them to perform in their turn, with a verbal explanation of its substance and significance. Through our words, our children should learn what these practices and observances mean to us so that they, too, may perceive them with their hearts and minds. (Collected Writings, Vol. VII, pp. 360-361)

If there is ever a moment in our lives that clearly underscores the crucial role that parents play in the development of their children, it is the Pesach Seder. At the Seder, we sit together surrounded by the many mitzvot of the evening. There, we deeply impress upon the inquiring child that “by strength of hand did God take us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” It was not due to our strength or skills that we achieved our freedom; only through Hashem’s direct intervention could we witness salvation.

Moreover, at the Seder we solidify the nexus of thought and action. We do not simply recount what occurred to our forefathers 3,000 years ago. Rather, we aim to relive that experience through the reenactment of their glorious experiences, and draw a personal connection to ourselves and our present realities. “A man is obligated to view himself (at the Seder) as if he himself was leaving Egypt.” (Pesachim 116b)

But the topic of chinuch does not start and end on the first night of Pesach. All throughout the week, as we initiate the counting of the omer, we impart upon our children pertinent lessons, such as the true goal of sefirah, which is to prepare to receive the Torah and achieve the special status of “metzuveh v’oseh” that was achieved at Sinai. (This is based upon explanations of the passage in Dayeinu that states that “Even if the Almighty would have brought us before Mount Sinai but would not have presented to us the Torah, it would have been sufficient an act as to warrant our appreciation.)

At week’s end, we shift our focus to the culmination of the redemption—Kriyat Yam Suf. There, too, chinuch plays a central role. Our sages (Shemot Rabbah) tell us that the babies who were born and raised in Egypt were the first to recognize Hashem at that auspicious time.

Apparently, even later artwork communicated the centrality of chinuch at the Yam Suf. A story is told involving the fifth rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn, known by the acronym “Rashab.” The Rebbe Rashab once saw a painting whose theme was the miracle of Kriat Yam Suf. The picture showed the children near their parents with their faces turned toward their parents, while the parents’ faces were turned upward. His son, the Rebbe Rayatz, explained that when children recognize that they are still children, and they look towards their parents and see that their parents also acknowledge their smallness and gaze upward toward their Father in Heaven, then the children grow up properly.

May we all merit utilizing this week to its fullest, to strengthen our own resolve as parents and to connect deeply with our children, thereby achieving the powerful and eternal charge of all Jewish parents to “tell it to your child.”


Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach who helps busy leaders be more productive so that they can scale profits with less stress and get home at a decent hour. For a free, no-obligation consultation, please call 212.470.6139 or email [email protected]. Buy his leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss,” on Amazon. Download his free productivity blueprint at www.ImpactfulCoaching.com/Productivity-Blueprint.

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