I came to this topic because of an event we held at our congregation last night. My wife, who is creative and a lover of children, created a Passover experience party for the kids. We used many items available from Jewish bookstores, such as frogs that jump when you flip a tab in the back. We held frog races that Mark Twain would have been proud of. We had stickers that look like little red boils. The children put them on and screamed in mock agony. My wife put red Koolaid powder in the bottom of a glass and poured water in as the children gasped to see water turned to “blood.”
This morning one of the mothers called. She told me that her preschool children had the time of their life.
That got me thinking about the Next Generation in Messianic Judiasm. I don’t so much mean the youth, college age, or the young adults. I mean the children.
Most adults in Messianic Judaism grew up in either a secular environment or a church environment. Few of us, Jewish on non-Jewish, have happy memories of a meaningful Jewish home filled with the observances of Jewish life.
In fact, I think most of us in Messianic Judaism have fond memories of [gasp] Christmas. Those colorful glass balls decorating an evergreen tree, those carols playing on the stereo, and those fantastic little packages with goodies hidden inside fill us with nostalgia. I confess to sometimes listening still to carols on the local radio station.
The fact is, secular or religious, those family rituals and observances tailored for children, build something for a lifetime. And that is what we must be about doing in a positive way in Messianic Judaism.
The Seder is a one of those experiences. In my opinion, we need to add more for the children to the Seder or at least to Passover week. That Passover Experience party we had for the kids is now to be an annual event for us. Purim parties are an annual event. Hanukkah celebrations and camping out for Sukkot make our children’s lives meaningful.
We must create a Jewish Next Generation in Messianic Judaism. I do not mean we must isolate ourselves from Christianity or the surrounding culture. We must have a healthy connection with Judaism and Christianity. But when it comes to observances and family rituals, I believe these must be Jewish and they must be made to cater to our children.
The Haggadah reminds us again and again that the Seder is for the children. May we all have wise sons and daughters and not wicked or simple ones.
In our congregation, as I’m sure in many others, there are those special times that are building in our children’s lives something that will last. For us, in addition to Passover, I would say our most precious time is Sukkot [Tabernacles]. At our congregation, we take it literally that we are to be outdoors and dwelling with God for the feast. We make one giant Sukkah [Booth of branches] for the whole group and we camp around it in tents. When the weather is nice, some of us even sleep in the Sukkah [easier done in the climate of Israel].
My wife has told me that the kids frequently say to her, “When is it going to be Sukkot?” That reminds me of my childhood experience, asking, “When is Christmas coming?”
We are building something solid, Jewish, and Biblical in our children’s lives. Let’s get to work.