Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Haggadah: the original IEP

Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday. I'm about the least observant Jew you'll ever meet (see here and here and here and here and here and here...), but for me Passover sums up all that is good about Judaism: family and friends telling the story of our ancestors overcoming oppression while sharing dinner and drinking Manischewitz. Extra heavy malaga or go home!

One of the key parts of the seder is the asking and answering of The Four Questions, which are all variations of "Why is this night different from all other nights?" The point is for the adults in the room to teach the children about the history of Pharaoh's enslavement of the Jews and how God led the Jews out of Egypt to freedom. (By the way, Ryan asked three questions during the seder: Can you bring the big fruit salad closer? Can I have another piece of cake with no wheat in it? And Where is the Elmo sticker?)

The Haggadah describes four types of children - the Wise Child, the Wicked Child, the Simple Child, and the Child Who Does Not Know How To Ask - and says we must tell the story of the Exodus to each child in the way that is most appropriate for him or her. I like to think of this as the original IEP*.

The past couple of years we've been using a comic book haggadah. This haggadah depicts the Four Children as variations on the Marx Brothers. (And if you look closely at the picture of the Jews crossing the parted Red Sea you can find a little boy peeing on a cactus.)
We're pretty Reform...
When we got to this part of the seder, I made an attempt to engage Ryan in the asking of the questions, but he made it clear he is Zeppo, the Child Who Doesn't Know How To Ask. The haggadah advises, "Don't bother with questions for this child, just start telling the story."

I'm coming to truly appreciate the Four Children model. The ancient rabbis knew that to pass on our history and traditions we must teach them to every child, but that different children learn in different ways. The Wise Child (Groucho) knows the story backward and forward so you keep teaching more details. The Wicked Child (Chico) thinks the stories don't apply to him, but is still bright enough to grasp the stories if you can make them engaging for him. The Simple Child (Harpo) needs everything spelled out for him. And then there's Zeppo.

You have to teach Zeppo the stories, but you may not get a lot of feedback, or even know if he's listening. The important thing is to keep trying to teach him the story in whatever way makes most sense to him.

* IEP = Individualized Education Program - a document mandated by the American Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to tailor a special ed student's education to his special needs.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! We use the same Haggadah. Although J made us change wicked child to selfish child bc she thought wicked wasn't nice.


Keep it civil, people.