At King David we move to the rhythm of the Jewish calendar. Our weeks are punctuated with Kabbalot Shabbat and acknowledgment of the minor and major festivals. This term we have cycled through thematic changes in our school bells as we have transitioned from Purim to Pesach. At various times during the day, the air is punctuated with a different Hebrew earworm and while it is sometimes infuriating to catch oneself humming ‘Dayenu’ at inopportune moments, the overall message is clear – these moments matter.
Pesach is a time when the power of Jewish life and learning at our school comes to the fore. I have the privilege of attending the many Pesach sedarim that occur across the School. I have learnt that hearing Dayenu at 11 sedarim in addition to every class transition is truly ‘enough!’ But I have also learnt that there is a deep power and resonance in our students so actively participating in exploring their own heritage.
In observing the joyous participation in our school sedarim it was abundantly clear that our students are thriving from the Jewish education that they are receiving and that they love the opportunity to sing, dance, dress up, eat and share in the wealth of rituals and traditions. While our older students similarly love the singing and eating, they also enjoy deeply exploring thematic readings on freedom, Feminism, and modern ‘plagues’.
We offer meaningful Jewish experiential activities as a means of deepening a sense of Jewish identity and for this reason it is very powerful that so many parents, grandparents, siblings and special friends come along to our Junior school sedarim to observe our students participating in this rich cultural and religious tradition. The messaging to our students in the many family members clutching their smartphones for the perfect picture or video is clear. The students understand that this is of paramount importance to the family and is inextricably linked to the love that they experience in these moments. They respond by revelling in every aspect of the enactment of our people’s story.
Remarkably, in our tradition the importance of educating our children about the events of the exodus is envisioned before the leaving of Egypt. Prior to approaching the Red Sea Moses already instructs the Israelites in the future observance of the Pesach festival. An observance that is now understood to be the most longstanding continuously observed religious tradition in the world. Moses articulates to the people the importance of explaining the significance of our rituals to our children. He states: “And you shall explain to your son on that day, ‘It is because of what God did for me when I went free from Egypt.’”
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks explains that while Pesach is a festival of freedom it is actually a festival that celebrates education. He writes: “Moses spoke not about freedom but about education. He fixed his vision not on the immediate but on the distant future, and not on adults but children. In so doing he was making a fundamental point. It may be hard to escape from tyranny but it is harder still to build and sustain a free society. In the long run there is only one way of doing so. To defend a country you need an army, but to defend a civilisation you need education. That is why Moses, according to Rousseau, the world’s greatest architect of a free society, spoke about the duty of parents in every generation to educate their children about why freedom matters and how it was achieved.”
I echo Rabbi Sacks’ wise words and take this opportunity to thank our families for entrusting us with this vital aspect of our students’ education.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag sameach,