Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Monday, April 6, 2015



This past Friday night began the holiday of Passover. Perhaps one of the most famous elements of the  Passover holiday is the Seder night, when we read the Haggada and retell and perhaps even relive our Exodus from Egypt. The Seder night is based on the idea that we are told to tell over the story to our children and when our children ask we should tell them. The Haggadah also mentions the idea of Four Sons and one of the more common interpretations of these sons is based on Maimonides idea "Chanoch L'nar Al Pi Darco", educated each child according to his needs. In other words differentiate.

Each Year I try to read a new commentary on the Haggadah and this year I have been reading, "The Jonathan Sacks Haggada" with commentary and essays written by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Through his ideas I believe that the Seder night holds a guide for us as parents and educators alike on how to educate our children.  Rabbi Sacks writes; "Abraham was chosen to in order to be a parent. He was also chosen to be an educator. The two concepts so different in many societies,.... are in Judaism inseparable."

We all the know the importance of having children ask  questions and that through questions and critical thinking we come to a deeper sense of learning. Rabbi Sacks adds that asking  a question shows a willingness to learn and when one asks that are in a way preparing themselves to receive the answer. 

As much as the Four questions are linked to the Four sons there is a reason the Rabbis created a standard text for all children to read at the Seder. Rabbi Sacks points out that we also need to remember that all children are precious. 

While this seems obvious I think if we are truly honest with ourselves we are all human and at times can favorite certain children over others, even unintentionally. I remember once I had a graduate student observe one of my classes for a paper she was writing and she was recording different statistics. She told me afterwards that I tended to call on the boys more often than the girls. I was very surprised as I always tired to be fair and call on my students equally. Remembering each child is unique and special is an important reminder.

As a Judaic teacher we often struggle with making the ancient texts relevant today. Rabbi Sacks I believe gives us an insight into this  as well. He adds that by telling we are not just reviewing what happened but it engraves it more in he memory.  Each year we add out own insights and new ideas so that we connect the past with the present. Therefore there is this constant renewal.

There is much written about the four sons and the purpose of this post is not to go into all the commentaries and ideas. I would like to share one thought mentioned in Rabbi Saks Haggada that I believe is important for educators.

" Wisdom in Judaism is not a state, but a process of constant learning. That is why it lies as much in  the question one asks as in the answers. Every answer is itself a prelude to a deeper question , and thus there is constant growth as we move to new levels of understanding." 

One of the hot topic today is project based learning and experiential learning and here too the Haggada by saying that we need to reel the story at the Seder night and not at the start of the month is because that is when we have the Matzoh and Marror before us.  Rabbi Sacks adds " The Torah however establishes a fundamental rule about how to pass values onto the next generation: tell the story while you are doing the deed.....Values are caught not taught. They are communicated by what we do more than by what we say."

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