Pesach and the Educator
Rabbi Yerahmiel Barylka
How do we lead our students to a full knowledge of the history, sources, songs, meals, thought and mitzvot of the imminent Pesach festival?
There is no dearth of material on Pesach and infinite variations are possible in its use.
In general, most frameworks repeat the same themes year after year. As a result, the students acquire only a limited knowledge, worse still, they are unable to discover and “rediscover” the festival each time, and thus to fulfill the principle that “every person should see himself as if he had come out of Egypt.”
Certainly, Pesach does not belong to any one sector of the Jewish people, and in transmission of its message it is important to integrate topical elements. The Pesach Haggadah, an outstanding didactic tool, has been a source of experiential learning for generations. Its text and especially certain mnemotechnical elements incorporated in its songs, its music, the way in which it is presented in Sephardi communities, and all the elements which emphasize the “difference” of this festival form an excellent starting point.
During the Seder, the educational process loses the authoritarianism and the vertical relationship of formal frameworks, the relationship between the “holder of knowledge who teaches” and the “lacking in knowledge who receives”; the Seder process establishes a dynamic where the youngest participants are duly stimulated and conduct the service. Here, the child does not relate what he has learnt at school and in the youth movement, while the parents endeavor to listen patiently. Here, there is something more transcendental – an attitude of dialogue. This can be the didactic “attitude” in the teaching.
The Pesach seder is no regular festive meal of a holiday eve. The entire proceedings are permeated with symbolism, special foods which we eat at no other time of the year, together with a varied program of activities.
The repeated symbolic appearance of elements involving the number four:
Foodstuffs (the Paschal Lamb, matzah, maror, charoset)
and the innumerable passages presented in the form of four verses, show the concern with giving a didactic framework in order to facilitate transmission.Their goal, initially, is to stimulate the natural curiousity of the child so that he or she will ask questions about what is being seen or heard during the Seder. The answers to the enquiries and the ensuing discussion constitute the very essence of the mitzvah, “And you shall tell it to your children”.
Shabat and Pesach
We are given two reasons for observance of Shabbat in the Ten Commandments:
“Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy … For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth” (Shemot 20: 8-11)
“The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your G-d … Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your G-d brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your G-d has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Devarim 6: 14-15).
Shabbat links the individual Jew to the Exodus from Egypt every week, transforming this day into an integral part of his or her existence throughout life.
Rabbi Yerahmiel Barylka
Material produced specially by Rabbi Yerahmiel Barylka and by Professor Rivka J. de Barylka z”l – “Nobody studies the Torah unless he so desires”
(Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah, 19)