The greatest way to inspire our children

I asked my students this morning, “If you could have everything you wanted, or alternatively, want everything you had, which would you choose?”

It’s a common question, one preached far more commonly than it’s practised. To paraphrase Ben Zoma (Ethics of the Fathers (4:1)), a wealthy person is one who is happy with their lot.

As parents, it is a constant struggle to instill within our children this value of appreciation. The ideal of not feeling entitled, but rather counting our blessings. But, like parenting in general, much of what we say falls on the deaf ears of our children.

What can we do to change this frustrating narrative?

There are two parallel ideas that flow throughout the Pesach seder. The first is the heavy emphasis on children. The hagadda is structured in such a way as to provoke curiosity and encourage questions, such as preparing the children to ask the four questions. But there are many other small acts and customs that serve to distinguish this night as different from all others, purely to promote inquiry; we wash our hands without a blessing before the first dipping, we dip parsley/potatoes in salt water, we sing songs, we hide the afikomen, all this to engage our children and keep them interested.

But there is a another distinct, yet equally important, concept; “A person is obligated to see themself as if they (personally) left Egypt”. Here the focus isn’t the children, but rather the parent. The parent has to play a role; they are to reimagine the Exodus, with them at its centre.

Perhaps the two concepts are intricately linked. Promoting an energy in our children requires that we, as parents, role model that energy. The greatest way to inspire our children about their Judaism is to first be inspired by our Judaism.

When we can “get into character” of reliving the Exodus, then our children will ask with genuine enthusiasm, “Mah Nishtana Halaila Hazeh”.

Similarly, to teach hakarat hatov (appreciation) we need to live with hakarat hatov. 

As parents, we are not only teaching the curriculum of life, we are the curriculum. 

ABOUT THE AUTHORUntitled design-72

Rabbi Gad Krebs is the College Rabbi at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.

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