Family & Education

Why Pesach tells us to use time well

What would be the first commandment you would give to the Israelites?


I doubt whether my teenage sons have noticed much change since the lockdown started. They’re experts at self-isolation, having practised it for years now, only coming out of their rooms to open the fridge, grunt or check why the internet connection has slowed down by a nanosecond. This has made me think about how we are going to engage the boys at Sedarim without guests adding inspirational ideas.

One activity we are going to ask the boys to do at the Seder is to imagine they are leading the Jewish people out of Egypt.

We will explain that the ninth plague has finished but Pharaoh has refused to let the Jewish people go. God tells you as leader to inform Pharaoh that He will now bring the final plague. The exodus is reaching its climax.

God asks you to gather the Jews together to give them their first commandment as a nation. What command would you give?

The boys might suggest that the command should be always to show kindness. One might say that he would prohibit murder. The other that the Jewish people should return to the Land of Israel.

These would all be reasonable suggestions. Yet, in the Torah, Moses directed by God commands; “This month shall be for you the beginning of the months; it shall be for you the first of the months of the year” (Exodus 12: 1 -2).

Seriously! (As my boys would say). The Jews had been waiting centuries for this moment and God chooses now to command them to count each month. Wasn’t there something slightly more important that He could have chosen?

At this point we will ask the boys to see if they can think of an explanation.

Here is a response that is particularly relevant this year. Until now the Jewish people were slaves, at the beck and call of their masters. Suddenly they were about to be free and with that freedom God tells them that they are now in charge of their own time. With that comes great responsibility. How would they spend that time wisely? By having the counting of the new month as the first commandment, God is making us aware of the enormous importance of using time well.

At the moment the way we spend our days has taken on new significance and we have the opportunity to reflect on our use of time. Do I spend enough time with loved ones, appreciating nature or caring for others? When this is all over will I take forward the precious insights I have discovered?

As part of the first commandment God instruct us to base the calendar on the lunar cycle. What is the significance of this?

A unique feature of the moon is that it appears to wax and wane showing us that when times are dark, that’s when the light appears again.

I hope these words will encourage my teens to connect the messages of the past with the challenges of today and to gain inspiration from the cycle of the moon that no matter how bleak our situation may be, a brighter future beckons.

Sharon Radley leads on secondary curriculum projects for Pajes

see: Support During School Closures


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