Each of us approaches the holiday of Passover from a different vantage point. We have different life experiences, perspectives, questions and answers. Does freedom have the same meaning for a Russian immigrant that it does for an American-born adult or child?  How does each person end the phrase, "I am free from...?" How does each of us relate to "God took us out of Egypt with a mighty and outstretched hand?" The rabbis realize these differences and express them through the faces and experiences of children. One child is typically wise. One is often wicked. One is simple and straightforward, and one is at a loss for words. We can choose to look for these children of all ages around our table or we can look within and see these aspects of ourselves. Is any one of us consistently wise, wicked, simple or silent? Are we not must-faceted and beautifully complex?

When the usually wise "child" asks, what are the laws that God commanded you...?

You can teach this child about the beauty and richness of Passover laws and traditions. He or she wants clarity and deeper understanding.

When the often wicked "child" asks, what does this service mean to you?

You might notice that he or she is removing himself or herself from the experience! To you and not to himself or herself! This child is quick to see the lessons that other people need to learn and slow to see him or herself as the object of the experience. Say, “It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.” It’s simple: Gratitude and wonder. Alternatively, listen to this child's question differently: What does this service mean to you (who seem to be engaging in it and enjoying it? If I knew, I too might fit into this experience and not draw away from it).

The simple and straightforward "child" might ask, what is this?

To this child, answer clearly: “With a strong hand God took us out of Egypt, where we were slaves.” We, you and I, are part of an incredible story of slavery, freedom, God’s hand in human history, and our responsibility is to lead generous, positively impactful lives. We who once were enslaved are now free to help liberate others from their enslavement. 

The "child" who is at a loss for words will probably not ask a question, so be aware of his or her silence and find ways to engage this child with love and respect. Help this child to ask questions by letting him or her know that the greatest contribution that he or she might add to the Seder is that “wrong” or “foolish” question that the child is wanting to ask.

You might say, “It is because of what God did for me in taking me out of Egypt.” You could add that Passover is a child's holiday which means that curiosity, questioning and play are at the center of the experience.

haggadah Section: -- Four Children
Source: Rabbi Ron Li-Paz