The Conversation Between Generations

Yael Eckstein  |  January 6, 2022

Father and daughter hugging while sitting on the sidewalk.

In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. – Exodus 13:14

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Bo, which means “come,” from Exodus 10:1–13:16.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is of my father eating an entire tablespoon of horseradish at our Passover seder. It was so strong that his face turned bright red, and his eyes filled with tears. 

I was so confused because it looked like my father was crying at our holiday meal. So, I asked him – I said, “Abba why are you crying?” My father got this twinkle in his eye and he gave me a big smile.  Then he said, “I’m crying so that you will ask me why I’m crying!”

One of my older sisters explained to me that we eat bitter herbs like horseradish on Passover to remind us of the bitter tears that the Israelites shed during slavery.

As simple as this exchange may seem, it actually is the fulfilment of a biblical command that has been carried out for three thousand years!

The Conversation Between Generations

In this week’s Torah portion God commands the people of Israel to transmit the experience and lessons of the Exodus to the next generation. But God did not only say that we should tell the story to our children. He told us to do things that will cause our children to ask questions.

Like me, when I asked my father about the horseradish, children remember things that arouse their curiosity. Had my father simply told me about the bitter herbs, I probably wouldn’t have remembered it. But because he did something to make me ask, it has remained with me for the rest of my life.

Now that I’m a parent, I completely understand why my father got so much pleasure whenever we expressed interest in our Jewish faith or showed him that we understood what he was trying to teach us.

I can best sum this up with a quote I love from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, who passed away just last year. He said, “For four thousand years our people survived because in every generation, Jews made it their highest priority to hand their faith on to their children. They sanctified marriage. They consecrated the Jewish home. They built schools and houses of study. They saw education as the conversation between the generations.”

It brings me such joy to know that we are part of that conversation between generations that has been going on since the very first Passover.

Your Turn:

Make time for the children in your family or church community. Never underestimate the power of those relationships in their lives.

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