Dear Readers,

We often tell children, “You’ll become 3 on Sunday at your birthday party.” So it is no wonder, a recent study reveals, that children as old as 4 or 5 believe that birthdays serve an integral purpose—of actually helping you get older!

In other words, in their eyes, the birthday is not just a celebration, but an actual passage creating a change in our age. (Conversely, without the party, they believe that they don’t become older.) Only by about 7 or 8 do children generally recognize that we age continuously, and that time marches forward, irrespective of the merriment.

This study provides insight into the mind of a child, and really, the mind of a human being.

Children, like most adults, attribute far greater importance to hands-on experiences. Events that are fully lived through, physically and emotionally, become more real and can actually create change in us. By celebrating an event with activities of great joy or grieving a loss through acts of mourning, we integrate passages of time, allowing us to mentally move forward.

Great teachers know this. They make their lessons impactful and memorable by helping their students experience a subject by engaging the visual, audio, tactile or other senses.

Judaism arguably is the greatest hands-on classroom ever.

Throughout the year, Judaism is full of practices that make us pause from the monotony of the day-to-day routine, and take notice, be mindful and internalize. In addition to the many layers of meaning and deep mystical or spiritual reasons behind so many of our daily laws or holiday practices, these rituals also help us get into the right spirit to fully experience an event or idea, through our minds, hearts and senses.

Take the holiday of Passover. We are expected to relive and actually feel our freedom. We drink four cups of wine to feel personal royalty. We eat bitter herbs to relive our slavery. We dip into salt water to taste sad tears. We crunch on matzah after scrutinizing our homes for chametz to remove excessive arrogance and airiness.

Each of these activities helps us not only to pass through this celebration, but to relive it. These ritualistic acts enable us to summon up the depth of our spiritual emotions. And the more real we make the act of reliving the event from our past, the more we are able to feel it and grow from it in our own lives.

As we prepare the many, many details for the holiday of Passover, let’s keep in mind that we are recreating for ourselves and our children an experience that will not just be celebrated as something that passes us by, but something that can and will actually transform us for the future.

Wishing you a very happy, kosher and liberating Passover!

Chana Weisberg,

Editor, TJW