Pin It
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

How to Fail at a Passover Seder

By
Passover seder/Shutterstock

My Passover seder was a failure. On the first two nights of Passover (or the first night if you live in Israel), Jews all over the world gather in homes for highly ritualized meals called seders.  Dating back approximately 2000 years, the seders combine blessings, rituals, the eating of specific foods, storytelling and singing.  As you can imagine, there is a lot of ground to cover.  But there is also a surprising amount of choice about which parts to emphasize and which to gloss over.  Every year, more and more Haggadot (guidebooks for the seder) are published: some are geared towards children, others to intellectuals and still others to artists.  The goal, for each, is to offer a seder that is interactive and didactic, engaging the participants to feel as if they, too, experienced liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt.  The primary question we want all participants, but especially children, to ask throughout the seder is, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

 

I was privileged to lead a seder at my house on the first night of Passover.  But since we were hosting families with young children as well as college students, I struggled to come up with a format that could speak to everyone. I spent hours preparing beforehand, poring over numerous Haggadot to figure out what I wanted to feature: which songs to sing, which English meditations to include and perhaps most importantly, which sections to speed through.

 

We began our seder around 6 p.m.  I employed a few child-oriented wrinkles early on, such as dipping strawberries into chocolate as an appetizer (since one of the Passover rituals is to immerse “fruits of the earth” into dips).  We also had the children lead us in singing some of the more famous songs and blessings.  We had a lively discussion about contemporary American slavery-like conditions among tomato farmers in Florida, as a way to show that the discussion of slavery is, unfortunately, not only historical.  By the time we got to dinner, it was already 8 p.m.  We ate and ate some more, and by 9 p.m, most of the group was exhausted.  Even though there were still more parts to the seder to conduct after dinner, we decided to call it a night.

 

At first I was disappointed that we hadn’t made it all the way through the seder.  I felt that my time management skills had been suboptimal, that I had somehow led us astray from our mission to complete the entirety of the seder.  But then I recalled the smiles on people’s faces, the engrossing conversations and the jubilation I felt when hearing the children sing.  We might not have made it all the way through the seder, but the parts we did cover were memorable for all who were there.  Instead of speeding through the seder in an effort to cover every technical aspect, we took our time and concentrated on making our seder feel organic and meaningful.

 

Our seder might have failed to adhere to the outline of a traditional Haggadah. But by trying to be provocative and inspirational rather than formal, our seder ultimately was a success.

© 2013, Josh Ratner. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Ramadan Star and Moon Craft

A craft recycled from your kid's art work!

9 Things You Should Never Say to Adoptive Parents

Have you made any of these mistakes?

The African Guide to Co-sleeping

10 must-read tips on co-sleeping from Africa

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Originally hailing from San Diego, Joshua, his spouse and their three children currently live in Connecticut, where Joshua is a rabbi. Joshua worked as an attorney for five years prior to starting rabbinical school and becoming a rabbi. They are raising their children as observant, progressive Jews.

Leave us a comment!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
For quite sometime, whenever there were articles that surfaced the internet concerning whether it was appropriate to breastfeed in public, I was so baffled. As a Mongolian, I was so shocked that som...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
For quite some whenever there was articles circulated on the internet concerning whether it is appropriate to breastfeed in public. As a Mongolian, I was so shocked that some countries considered i...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
I live with my Czech in laws with my four children and my Czech is crap I try to learn but the baby doesn't sleep well I'm a constant zombie and the brain just doesn't work. Plus being tired makes m...
From How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law
I am so glad I found this site. I am happy to see that I am not alone in experiencing 'family issues' after getting married. I am not from the West but I am married to a Canadian. I never truly unde...
From How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law
[…] my most favourite article about breastfeeding called Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan by Ruth Kamnitzer. I have no doubt that Mongolians would find our social stigmas around [R...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
[…] sources and reasons for the rules of these countries too, such as China, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, and Hungary (see above re “Titanic”).  Has anyone got s...
From International Baby Naming Laws–Are They a Good Thing?
[…] Source Inculture Parents […...
From Lotus Lanterns for Wesak (Buddha Day)
If your nerves shat down your hormones , can you get pregnant by injecting a sperm in you to develop a baby . Please let me know...
From Baby-Making the Hindu Way
[…] Diwali Lantern from InCultureParent […...
From Diwali Craft: Make a Lantern

More The Religious Life of Children