Child’s Play – Parshat Bo 5773

People often look at me like I’m nuts when I tell them that I love the week I spend traveling through Texas on a bus with 20-30 6th graders.  As most adults can attest, traveling with children for any distance can be a trying experience.  “Are we there yet?” “I need to go to the bathroom.” “Are we there yet?”  And on a bus there are the every-five-minute reminders to sit down, turn around, stop yelling, and stay two per row.  On the other hand, traveling with children can also give you a unique perspective on the world you’re traveling.
The Israelites are a traveling people beginning with our parshah this week, Bo.  In parshat Bo, the Israelites are steps away from leaving Egypt.  Pharaoh refuses again to allow the Israelites to leave, and each of the three refusals brings with it the three final plagues.  The narrative continues with the procedures for leaving Egypt by putting the lamb’s blood on the doorpost, packing up, and then celebrating Passover in future generations.  As Pharaoh is deciding whether to let the Israelites go or not, he asks many questions.  “What will you be doing in the wilderness?  How will you live?”  And, in chapter 10, verse 8, Pharaoh asks, “Who are the ones to go?” Moshe responds “We will all go, young and old: we will go with our sons and daughters, our flocks and our herds…”
Pharaoh’s response does not disappoint: “The Lord be with you the same as I mean to let your children go with you! Clearly, you are bent on mischief.”  You can almost hear the laughter that must have accompanied this line.  Moshe seemed crazy, wanting to go out into the barren desert without the stability of city life, for an unknown period of time with all of those children. 
Modern Torah commentators also questioned this inclusion of children.  The verse would have been clear had it just stated that everyone was going to go; why did Moshe need to add “young and old”?  One commentator shared that it’s “because no celebration is complete without children.”  This road-trip was not your average trip; it was a journey, a celebration of freedom.  While the journey might have involved more mischief, pit stops, or questions, it was meant to celebrate the future, the future embodied in the children.
Too often we become like Pharaoh and immediately see the negative of a situation, and that blinds us to the beauty of what we are about to experience.  Children view the world through unbiased and clear lenses.  Even though participation might result in a few extra questions to answer, or even a headache at the end of the trip, nothing can compare to seeing the joy, wonder, and awe on a child’s face when experiencing something new for the first time. 
THIS TOO IS TORAH: Many of our holiday traditions have become specifically children oriented: dreidel, the four questions, the afikomen, the flags on Simchat Torah. As parents (or older siblings of younger children) what differences do you notice between the way young children celebrate and understand holidays and the way adults do?

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