THE CHILD IS FATHER TO THE METAPHOR
WITH ELLEN WINNER
NOT LONG AGO, one of us was conducting a Seder, the ritual Jewish meal commemorating the flight of the Hebrew people from Egypt. In relating to a group of children gathered around the table the events that culminated in the Exodus, he described how, after one of the plagues, Pharaoh's heart had hardened to stone. Noticing a look of bewilderment on several of the youngsters' faces, he momentarily assumed his role as a developmental psychologist and asked the children what they thought that meant. A five-year-old promptly replied that God had come down "and turned Pharaoh's heart into a stone." Another five-year-old protested that it was not God but rather a witch who had turned the heart into a stone. A six-year-old disagreed with both those "magical" interpretations, insisting that hearts cannot really turn into stones and that, instead, "the Pharaoh might have lived in a castle that was made out of hard stone."
"I don't think so," suggested his eight-year-old sister. "I think it means that the Pharaoh had very big muscles; they were hard like a rock."
Eventually, an adult suggested that it was the Pharaoh's mood, rather