The people came up out of the Yarden on the tenth day of the first month and camped at Gilgal, by the eastern boundary of Yericho. Those twelve stones which they took out of the Yarden, Y’hoshua piled up at Gilgal. Then he said to the people of Isra’el, “In the future, when your children ask their fathers what these stones mean, you are to explain it to them by saying, ‘Isra’el came over this Yarden on dry land. For The LORD your G-d dried up the water in the Yarden from in front of you, until you had crossed, just as The LORD your G-d did to the Sea of Suf, which he dried up from in front of us, until we had crossed. From this all the peoples of the earth can know that the hand of The LORD is strong, and you can fear The LORD your G-d forever.
What is the point of living a godly life if there is no one to inherit it? What is the point of having heirs if you do not prepare them to take on your values? What is the point of holding ideals, if you refuse to make them a legacy? How do you transmit values? How do you leave a legacy?
Children are naturally curious and will ask questions about the things they encounter. Joshua is presuming that these 12 stones will remain standing and that Jews would continue to take their children around this monument and that the question would be provoked. Much like with the Passover, this monument of the twelve stones predicts that in the future, Israelite children will ask their fathers about it. In the Passover Seder the idea of the inquisitive child is expanded: there are four types of children and they approach the ceremony and ritual from unique perspectives, one of them doesn’t even take note and therefore doesn’t think to ask about what is going on. The Pesach Seder details all of this and concludes the section with an admonition that everyone in attendance would be like the wise (or is it righteous?) son. That each person participating in the Seder would want to know about the details of the story and observation and that they would internalize it and make it their own.
One of the things I love about the body of tradition and ritual built up and preserved in Judaism is the understanding that in order to pass on our beliefs, we have to live them. We have to talk about them and even read through little prepared scripts that remind us to take control of our lives and actively choose to recognize and cleave to G-d. It isn’t enough to read about the holy monument. If you never pass by it with your children, you can never show it to them and you rob yourself of an opportunity to make it part of who they are. We have to make our relationship with G-d a tangible part of our lives. With His love and mercy, that will be enough to pass on a love for Him, His Word and His ways to our children and our children’s children.