After the Fire: 4 Questions for Parents
This Passover, let’s take Gabriel Sassoon’s heartbroken words to heart.
We are all reeling from the tragic loss that has rocked the Jewish world. Seven souls, seven angels whose sweet voices I just heard singing “Cry No More Yerushalayim” on a recording released by the Sassoon family. It is difficult for me to keep listening; I wipe away my tears. Who cannot be touched by this tsunami of grief?
In his eulogy, Gabriel Sassoon’s voice shook as he described each of his beautiful children who had perished in the tragic fire. He told the anguished crowd, “I want to ask my children for forgiveness. I did my best and my wife did her best. Please, everybody, love your child. That’s all that counts. Understand that.”
Let us take this heartbroken father’s words to heart. To honor the memory of these children, let us take the time before Passover begins to learn how to love each child better. This holiday is our opportunity to engage our sons and daughters, connect with them, and teach them how much God cares for them. The Hagaddah guides us in our quest to renew our bond with each child sitting at our table and make them feel cherished and adored.
The following four questions
1. Did I search for my personal chametz?
On the eve before the Passover Seder we conduct a search for chametz-leaven. After the search we say, “Any type of leaven that may still be in my possession, that I have not seen or removed, let it be considered nullified.” We are not just speaking about clearing our physical homes but as we prepare for Passover, we must take time to clean our spiritual homes within our hearts. Passover gives us the energy to do a ‘spiritual cleanse’ as we purge ourselves of negative character traits.
Before the holiday begins, take a moment and consider which character traits are causing a disconnect with our children. Is it a short fuse that brings angry reactions instead of calm to our home? Are we impatient so that we seem indifferent and uncaring? Do we push our loved ones away by being negative and judgmental? Do we seem to put technology first by constantly checking iPhones and emails while our family is trying to speak with us?
Don’t allow this moment to pass. Set a clear goal to rid yourself of the trait that is preventing you from building the home you have always dreamed of. This will take commitment, hard work and dedication. Do not give up. Your children are waiting for you to raise them with love.
2. Do I create seder-order in my home?
Before we begin the Seder, we enumerate the 15 parts of the Seder in order to show how crucial it is for us to give thought to our actions and words. We should always live our days with meaning and perspective. We waste precious time and mess up relationships when we simply coast along and stop paying attention to those we love. This impacts our parenting. When we discipline without thinking, we say and do hurtful things. When we react emotionally, we lose control. Parenting with ‘seder-order’ means that we parent purposefully. Our homes are not filled with chaos, which causes confusion and insecurity. Daily routines and relationships built on respect bring stability. Children thrive when they feel safe. Knowing that parents are consistent, thoughtful about their parenting, and living in harmony provides the ‘seder’ that children need to succeed. Let us plan how to make this happen.
3. Am I tuned in to the emotional needs of my children?
As we begin to recite the story of our people, we lift up our Seder plate, uncover our matzahs and say, “This is the poor bread that our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are needy come and celebrate.” One would think that it is a little late to begin inviting guests to our Seder table at this point. After all, we are seated and ready to begin. Where are we finding hungry and needy people now?
If we would open up our eyes and really see the children who are sitting around us, we would notice the hunger for love and a kind word that gnaws at their souls. It is not simply physical hunger that we are being asked to feed. We are being taught to recognize that parents have the responsibility to nourish a child’s desire to feel cared for. Some children require more hugs and kisses. They long for a loving touch that, as children grow, parents forget to give. Others yearn for a kind word, warm laughter, an encouraging smile. Days go by and we have given many directions and commands but a good word has hardly been said.
Seder night, look around your table. Give each child your blessing. Embrace your family with the compassion that they so badly need. We speak of the Four Sons. Understand that there are all types of children; each deserves a place in your heart.
4. Do I live my life in color?
Jews all over the world sing the melody of ‘Dayenu’. We describe the many incredible miracles that God has showered upon our nation and after each is enumerated, we say one word: Dayenu! – ‘This would have been enough!’ Here lies one of the most valuable life lessons we can ever hope to transmit to our children. If we could teach ourselves to see the many kindnesses that God has granted us from the moment we took our first breath in this world, we would be able to guide our children to be cognizant of the ‘blessing of enough’. Nothing is random; life should never be taken for granted. By breaking down each instant and then learning to say ‘thank You, God’, we come to live life in color instead of black and white.
Most of us think about what we are lacking. We easily complain or feel badly for ourselves. When we redirect our eyes to see the good, we take ourselves to a positive place. Our children learn how to appreciate the gifts that God has granted us. This is the road to joy. It begins with our appreciation for our lives.
This Passover, let us dedicate our Seders to these seven holy souls who left this world with a message to us all. Parents, think about the gift of life that we have been given. Every child is precious. As Gabriel Sassoon cried, “The souls of my children live on in my heart and my wife’s heart. But not just with us – in the heart of the entire nation…They are there.”