The Key to a Meaningful (and not brutal) Seder?

April 18, 2019

Enjoy this week's full Ta Shma email here!

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

I recently had the pleasure of studying the Hagadah at a shiur given by our school's founder, Dr. Devora Steinmetz. I was particularly taken by Devora's reading of the familiar text from Sefer Shemot that serves as the guiding principle of the Seder experience and from which we derive the word "Hagadah": וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣ לְבִנְךָ֔ בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא לֵאמֹ֑ר בַּעֲב֣וּר זֶ֗ה עָשָׂ֤ה ה' לִ֔י בְּצֵאתִ֖י מִמִּצְרָֽיִם, And you shall explain to your child on that day, 'It is because of what the LORD did for me when I went free from Egypt.' Devora made the point almost in passing than בִנְךָ֔, "you child," mentioned in this verse refers to each of us.  who would not have experienced the miracles of the Exodus. We, the adults at a Seder, are no more intimately connected to those formative experiences between God and our people than are the children at our Seder.

I have been thinking about this all week and also wondering why I keep thinking about it. After all, it is a fairly obvious reading of the text.

Here's why it is sticking with me. I think being aware that we are all learners -- irrespective of age, position or title -- is the determinant  factor between a deeply meaningful Seder and a brutally painful one. Think of the difference between a Seder where the person facilitating engages with everyone present in authentic conversation versus one where the facilitator is the exclusive teacher, holding and distributing all the wisdom at their discretion. The key to a Seder that is a meaningful learning experience for all, where we all fulfill our obligation of " וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣ לְבִנְךָ֔," is ensuring that every person there is both a teacher and a student.

This also speaks directly and profoundly to our work at Beit Rabban. Our classrooms are most alive and holy when each person in the room -- teachers and students alike -- curiously engages with others and with whatever text or content is being considered, intent on growing from the shared learning experience. As educators we strive to facilitate our student's growth intellectually, emotionally  and spiritually. The most effective way for us to do that is to be fully engaged in the learning process with them: to listen closely to our students, to engage personally with our content, and to always retain the humility of a learner. We have to remember that we adults are also the " בִנְךָ֔" who must continue to be taught.

Wishing all a redemptive Pesach,