Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a Passover dinner hosted by a Rabbi. The guests were each gifted with a copy of the “Haggadah” which is a Jewish text detailing the order of the Passover. Reading the Haggadah at the Passover table was a fulfillment of the scriptural commandment to “tell your son”, by conscientiously impressing upon younger generations how God liberated their ancestors from slavery as described in the Book of Exodus (Exodus 13:8).
Jewish parents are known to allow children to interrupt incessantly. It is common to put aside adult conversations to attend to the children’s questions first. Such is the same at the Passover table where the aim is not merely a one-sided reading and teaching, but to engage the children in conversation. What I found even more remarkable was the Haggadah instructed parents to engage their children based on their individual characteristics. In particular, it described in detail four kinds of children:1) the “bright, inquisitive kind”, 2) the one who is “kind of chilled out of the whole thing”, 3) the “simple” kid, and 4) the “one who just doesn’t know how to ask questions.”
The Haggadah instructs the parent of the first bright and inquisitive kid to discern what the child craves to understand, and to teach accordingly. To the second chilled out-child who asks, “Why do you guys do all this?”, the parent discerns that the child keeps the faith at arm’s length and seeks to inspire him. The third kind of child may not be bright, but parents are reminded that this child may be more in touch with God because he does not wonder excessively like the bright ones and get lost in the process. The parent just has to sustain his amazement and wonderment. The Haggadah describes the fourth type of kid as aloof, going through the motions without engaging his mind, heart and soul. The parent has the arguably harder task to help him open up, get him engaged and to ask questions.
The central theme around the Passover and the Haggadah seems to revolve around “Otherwise, how will they learn?” The Rabbi reminded guests that the Passover tradition exists not only for practicing Jews, but to continually bring back the Jews who have yet to embrace their heritage (also known as the fifth child who did not turn up that night, but always in the thoughts and prayers of the community).
As a Christian mother of four, the lessons from this Passover dinner are especially poignant to me:
- Teach and speak of our faith diligently. The Bible reminds us to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). As much as it is a community effort, parents cannot afford to delegate their God-given duty and responsibility to the weekly Sunday school and the occasional Vacation Bible Camp.
- Practice wisdom and discernment in engaging our children. Much like how Jesus engaged and challenged the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-27) and the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-22), we inspire faith in our children according to their God-given characteristics. We challenge each child to make God relevant in his or her particular life circumstances.
- Faith is not merely theological understanding, but a nurturing of relationships. The concept of a Heavenly Father is abstract and children first understand that from their relationship with their own parents, and their parents’ personal relationship with God.
- Last but not least, allow our children to doubt, ask questions and struggle to find their own faith. It is from knowing God’s law and struggling with our sins and inadequacies that we grow to become stronger in our faith. Romans 7:14-25 reminds us that only in knowing how wretched we are without God, do we cling on to Him for hope.
“Otherwise, how will they learn?”
By Linda Heng-Leong (YCKC Bulletin 7&8 May 2016)