This week’s parshah — Parshat Bo – reminds us about our role as parents in responding to our children’s Jewish questions. The parshah raises many difficult questions concerning Pharoah’s free will, suffering due to the plagues, the cost of freedom, and more. What has always fascinated me about this parshah is that it anticipates and welcomes the questions that children will ask. Chapter 12 of Parshat Bo, in the Book of Exodus, describes the rituals of Pesach that are to be done to remember the final departure from Mitzrayim. Immediately following the description of the rituals, the Torah states that in the future, “Your children will ask you, ‘What is this ritual to you?’” How remarkable that at the very moment the Torah describes the ritual of Pesach, it also states that in the future our children will ask about the meaning and purpose of this ritual. The notion that children will ask questions about Pesach is mentioned four times in the Torah – paralleling the four questions of the children at the Seder. Nothing could be more Jewish than raising questions concerning the meaning and purpose of what we, as Jewish people, do. In each generation, parents are challenged to explain to their children “what this ritual is to you.” Davka, to you!
We celebrate Pesach, the Torah teaches, because God freed us from slavery “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm”. This week’s middah is, “Be grateful for your freedom.” This week at Heschel, we observed Martin Luther King Jr. / A.J. Heschel Spirit Week. We acknowledged the unique relationship between these two freedom fighters. We reminded ourselves that we all have a role to play in ensuring all people live free and dignified lives.
The Torah and the Haggadah give us some guidance on how to answer our children’s questions. But ultimately, each of us needs to be able to answer it for our own children. This Shabbat, may we each find the wisdom and words to answer for our children what living a Jewish life means to us.