Passover: Fact or Fiction

Passover is definitely one of my favorite holidays. It’s generally observed at home – with friends and/or family. There are some delicious foods (macaroons, matzah ball soup!) and some less delicious foods (gefilte fish, horseradish!). It’s a holiday that asks us to be creative and to celebrate it in ways that are most meaningful to us.

Yesterday, I had lunch with some friends and their kindergartner and second grader. The kids had recently learned about the Passover story in school and were eager to tell it to me in great detail. They recounted a lot of the details of the story (Moses and his role, each of the ten plagues, Pharaoh’s role, etc.). But as I listened to them, I was reminded that so much of what kids are taught about Judaism actually needs to be retaught (or sometime untaught!) later. A child simply can’t learn and appreciate the complexity of Judaism.

That’s why when I teach or coordinate programs for children, my goal is not just that they learn some facts. My bigger goals are that they learn to think and question, to be analytical in their approach. And that they are intrigued enough by Judaism that they want to come back to it and learn more as adults.

As adults, we can more fully appreciate the nuances of our tradition. We can separate fact from fiction – and realize that the mythology of our past is important, but so is the historical unpacking of those legends.

This year, my colleague Robert Barr and I did just this as we created a three minute YouTube video for Passover – separating fact from fiction. We talk about how the Exodus didn’t really happen, how the Easter egg and Passover egg are similar, how Passover was originally a very different holiday, and more. Check it out here.

Learning about Passover and other aspects of Judaism as a child is not enough. If you attended Religious School as a kid and were turned off and don’t want to relive that experience, know that the experience you can have as an adult learner of Judaism is deeper and more profound. As adults, we can appreciate the creativity of the past while respecting our own ability to be creative, to think, and to reason.

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