And when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road of the land of the Philistines, although that was closer. Exodus 13:17
The Israelites went the long way. As the joke goes, why didn’t they stop and ask for directions? Their slave mentality had to die out before they could enter the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land that their children would long endure on as long as they followed the commandment.
But wandering for 40 years? What does it mean to wander for 40 years? During those 40 years they developed a deep trust and appreciation for the land, for their connection to it and to G-d who traveled with them, sustained them and gave them rest.
How in an age of GPS, do we concretize this experience for our children, since we are told to tell our children on that day what the Lord did for us when we went forth from Egypt?
The answer is in an old Girl Scout Handbook. Simple directions for a box hike.
Take a cardboard box. Write North, South, East, West, Left, Right, one word on each side. Go outside and walk. At each street corner, toss the box in the air and go whichever direction it says.
Not a pillar of fire or cloud but the kids are amazed when they go back and forth and back and forth, over and over again seemingly at the whim of the box.
When done as a pre-Passover activity, we turn the students into “slaves” first. Then one person arises as Moses, bargains with Pharaoh and leads the Israelites to freedom. In 18 minutes they have to pack, bake matzah and pick up bitter herbs, water, and their timbrels. Once outside, they cross the “Red Sea” with Pharaoh chasing. Once safely on the other side, they sing “Mi Chamocha” and Debbie Friedman’s “Miriam’s Song.” Then they begin wandering. There are always some who complain, just like the Israelites. Their feet hurt. They’re tired. They’re thirsty. They don’t like matzah or bitter herbs. We wander for about 40 minutes.
Then we return. We ask Four Questions. This year those questions will include ones about wandering and the earth.
- What did you see outside you don’t see in the classroom or around a table?
- What did you hear outside? Smell?
- How does the land sustain us? How does G-d sustain us on the land?
- What is our responsibility to protect this earth? How?
In doing this project we not only deepen the connections between our children and Passover, but our children and the land.