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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - April 2019
From the Rabbi - April 2019 PDF Print E-mail
I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be. (Whitney Houston)

This  month we will be celebrating Passover and in doing so we see how important it is to our tradition to teach our children and include them in our religious ritual.  Much of what happens in the Seder revolves around engaging the children and making sure they, more than anyone, understand the meaning and significance of the Exodus from Egypt.  We start with the Four Questions in which children ask why this night is so different from other nights.  The rest of the Seder is essentially an attempt to answer those questions: the passage about the Four Children (Wicked, Wise, Simple and Who Does Not Know How to Ask) is a rabbinic interpretation of the four times the Bible commands us to teach our children about the Exodus; the afikomen search ensures that as the meal comes close the children are engaged in a game of religious ”hide and seek”; and the closing songs, such as Who Knows One and Chad Gadya, are clearly children’s songs to keep their attention and help them learn the themes of the festival. 

But engaging children in religious life is something that is important all year round and not just for Passover.  As I write this we are looking forward to having our children literally “lead the way” as our religious school will be leading services tonight.  After lots of practice and preparation they will be taking front and center and leading the prayers tonight.  But engaging them in prayer and ritual is also not just about the occasional religious school led service but about making sure that we have a regular service that is welcoming to children and in which they feel comfortable.  That is not an easy task.  Children can be rambunctious and spirited (or at least those were the words used to describe me as a child!) and that can be a challenge  to creating an atmosphere of sanctity and decorum that many seek in religious services.  And of course it can be challenging for parents to ensure that their children behave in a way that does not disrupt services for others.   On the other hand we want to encourage parents who wish to bring their children to feel comfortable in doing so and we want those children, as much as possible, to feel comfortable in services so that they can become accustomed to Jewish prayer and community from an early age.  In particular our family services are designed to be services in which the expectation, within reason of course,  is that “kids will be kids” and that’s OK.  The style of the service at those times is itself more rambunctious and spirited and that, we hope, allows for a more relaxed feel for both parents and children alike as well as for all others who attend and enjoy those services. 

In the Shema and Ve’ahavta prayer we are told that the words of the Shema,  and by extension the teachings of Judaism as a whole, should be “impressed upon our children.” The best way to ensure that Judaism is impressed upon our children is to create a culture in which all, adults and children alike, feel comfortable, welcomed, and engaged in all that we do and in particular in the Seder and our Shabbat services all year round. 
                    Rabbi Ilan Emanuel



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