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Ask, Don’t Tell

A father’s reflections on teaching his son the Four Questions

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  Tablet’s Gabriel Sanders decided it was time to teach his 21-month-old son the seder’s Four Questions, but, in looking back over the text, he found he has some questions of his own—about the seder’s structure, about similarities between the Mah Nishtanah and other children’s songs, and about just what it means to teach a child questions before he’s developed the power to ask.

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Gabriel Sanders’ interaction with his son, Ezra, was inspirational – especially for new parents who are wondering when to begin teaching their children the Ma Nishtana. The forum in which Gabriel introduces the Ma Nishtanah to Ezra is a developmental step in the process, because all of us know that children this age only require a little repetition and exposure, and woo hoo, they begin to absorb like sponges!
Good job, dear Gabriel, and keep it up! Very soon, Ezra will know how to conduct the Seder!

Best Wishes,
Janet Rosenfield
Jewish Educator
San Diego, CA

Cory says:

dear uncle gubby
dont worry I can help ezzy say the 4 questions.
love rufus

sarah says:

Gabriel presents us a beautiful slice of life, the reward of those fortunate jews who celebrate the rituals of Passover. The father and son relationship is a special feature, and the familiar songs embed themselves into our consciousness through our earliest experiences. This has been the experience of countless Jewish families, including ours – the special songs of the seder are among the richest traditions continued through the generations of our family, in its passage from Russia to Canada to the USA. Thanks for sharing your beautiful insights at this special time of year.

Silvia says:

I liked a lot your story and tell you mine. When my son was 5 he used to cry every night that he did not want to sleep. After some time we were all tired of it and when he started crying I would start singing, as a joke, Mah Nishtanah a Laila a Zeh Mi Kol Ha Leilot and he and his sister used to laugh and answer: “Nothing”. After some time David stopped crying at bedtime and they understood the spirit of it, that some nights are just the same, and some are different.
Chag Sameach

Jennifer says:

I actually wonder if teaching children to ask the four questions really just sets up a pattern of children being asked to perform without understanding – and then gain applause from their families for their successful rote memorization (and of course that later turns into the empty bar/bat mitvah ritual)

This is beautiful! Many thanks for sharing

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Ask, Don’t Tell

A father’s reflections on teaching his son the Four Questions

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