Pelz Hebrew School
Listening to the students at the Pelz Hebrew School, this week, sing the Mah Nishtanah (Four Questions), I notice the rich and diverse group of children whose families have come from all backgrounds, levels of observance and countries.
This allowed me to reflect for a few moments on one of the reasons why this Holiday of Passover stands out and is so central to our religion. In schools and homes across the world, children are learning about this very important and monumental holiday. In addition to being the birth of our nation, 3,300 years ago when we were liberated from slavery and became the Jewish nation, there is also a very important message that seems to call out from the pages of the Haggadah (book read during the Passover Seder).
As we move through the Haggadah, we come to the part about the “Four Sons” who are present at the Seder table: The wise son, the wicked son, the simple son, he son who does not event know how to ask questions
If you think about it, Passover is probably the most celebrated holiday by all Jews, and a time when our families and our communities come together to celebrate at the Seder table. Why is it necessary at the Seder to talk about the four sons? Why do we have these few paragraphs in the Haggadah that point out our differences, and to be clear, our imperfections as well? Yet every year we make a point of not only mentioning the four sons, but to describe how each one is different than the other.
Herein lies a powerful and important two-fold message.
On one hand, we are emphasizing that no matter the background, the skills, the character, the level of observance, each and every child of the Jewish people are a part of Passover, a part of our people and have a place by our table! Furthermore, the one who seems to the “wicked” son made it his business to be at the table too!
On the other hand, we are sometime so overzealous to make sure everyone is equal and “not to see how their differences” that we tend to miss out on each individual’s unique personality and character. And that is the point. Yes, together with each one’s unique and different approach to life, there is also the truth that each son has something very unique to offer to the table.
As parents and educators we recognize and value the importance, on one hand, that every child deserves and so desperately needs a proper education, yet at the same time we must recognize and appreciate the unique needs and skills of each child, and the value of each student.
Each child is a gift from God. Each with unique talents and special abilities. Some may seem to be more academic, others more creative, artistic or musically inclined, and yet for others it may be other areas of excellence. As the saying goes, you can’t judge a fish by its’ ability to climb a tree.
Watching the children sing the Passover songs, I can’t help but feel joy at the varied colorful personalities. Each one with their particular abilities, looks, challenges and background. Yet with all their differences here they are, all together, attending Hebrew school, learning about their Jewish heritage while each one gains from the experience in their special way.
As we are approaching the holiday of Passover, there are so many important lessons that we learn about who we are as a people, as families and as individual Jews – and in particular for those of in education (both as parents and as faculty).
EVERY Jewish child is welcome to our Seder table. Every Jewish child is welcome to study Torah. And, yes, every Jewish child is entitled to have a solid Jewish education!
But there is one more child to consider. The Rebbe has talked about fifth son. The child who does not even know (or appreciate) that it is Passover and that there is a Seder! This is the child that does not even know about (the value and importance of) receiving a Jewish education. Our responsibility is to reach out and find that child, “the fifth son” and invite him into our schools, into our community and to share with him the beauty of Judaism, and what it means to be a Jew!
So, as we gather this Passover and reflect on our role as educators, parents, community leaders, let’s remember our responsibility to each of the “Four Sons" that we encounter.
May Hashem (God) reciprocate and do the same, and provide for all of His children, despite (and because of) all of our differences, and bring Moshiach now.
Dinie Rapoport is the director of the Pelz Hebrew School and has been involved in education for more than 25 years. She and her husband are Shluchim (emissaries) of the Rebbe in Mequon at the Peltz Center for Jewish Life.