This Shabbat – Shabbat Hagadol – precedes Pesach. Not surprisingly, it brings its own pointed pre-Pesach messages, one of which appears in the Haftarah portion from the prophet Malachi.
In exceedingly poetic and poignant language, Malachi tells us that God will send Elijah who “will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents.”
It is a testament to the superbly astute judgement of the ancient Sages that it is Malachi’s encouraging forecast of inter-generational relations they chose to underpin our emotions and our hopes as we prepare for and enter, merely days later, the formative, seminal Jewish holiday of our peoplehood.
It is, of course, a message of continuity: teaching the older generation how to pass the torch of our values to our children, filling us with hope that they will wish to receive it and be able to do so and one day, in turn, pass it lovingly to their children.
With the purposefully included four archetypes of children as students, the many carefully prescribed details and rituals, and, of course, the exciting story of Pesach, the Seder is and has clearly been designed by our Sages to be a quintessential teaching moment.
Indeed, one can perhaps say – based on the biblical commandment to teach our children the origin of our peoplehood – the Seder is the historic keystone on which the structure of Jewish education is based and has been communally supported for some 2,000 years.
As we prepare for Pesach, let us be inspired to action by Malachi’s hope. Let us vow to secure our communal education system. If our children are to turn their hearts to, and accept for themselves in their own way, the traditions and values of their parents, we – the parents and the community in which we reside – must see to the children’s education.
If it is not affordable, then there effectively will be no education.