Today is September 22, 2017 -
by Hazzan Michael Krausman
Pesach is the Jewish holiday during which family traditions are established and nurtured. As we begin cleaning the house, inviting our guests and preparing for the Seder, a flood of magnificent memories and joyful experiences is unleashed in our hearts and minds and in those of our children. It is incumbent upon us, as parents, to carefully create these magical memories and craft them for our kids so that they will have wonderful experiences that will last a lifetime and beyond.
Adding to the experiential nature of the Seder is an extremely effective way of accomplishing this mandate. This task can be accomplished in many different ways – some quite simple and others a little more involved. An easy way to begin is by supplying toy percussion instruments, such as tambourines and drums, so that even the youngest children can participate in the Seder. Other simple but effective ways to engage our children are through props, puppets and costumes. Using toy elements of the plagues, asking participants to dress as characters from the Passover story, such as Moses or Pharaoh, or using puppets to act out part of the story, all work well. Experiential games are also quite effective. For example, we begin our Seder by handing out cards with the names of each element of the Seder as well as an appropriate picture on them. As we progress through the evening, each participant is asked to look at the card they have been given and, at the appropriate time, to affix it by Velcro to the board at the front of the room. A close friend often writes clues to the location of the Afikomen on the back of a jigsaw puzzle, which all of the participants must work together to assemble in order to find the hidden Matzah.
Of course, music is a key component of any successful Seder. Make sure to allow time for the children to sing all of the songs they learn in school. Individualize the Seder by having guests and relatives with different traditions share their favorite melodies. It is also important to allow children every opportunity to ask questions and to offer information they have learned; it is a great opportunity to show them how much you value Jewish education. In addition, the Seder can also be individualized by asking relatives and guests to share their own stories of liberation or escape from oppression, poverty or any other such adversity. Even telling the history of your special Kiddish cup, Seder plate or other Seder element will enhance the personal nature of your Seder. Such stories give an immediate quality to your Seder celebration.
To truly make your Seder celebration an experiential occasion, try erecting a “tent” in a room other than the dining room in which to conduct the Seder. In any event, it is a good idea, especially for families with children, to have the beginning of the Seder in a different location than the meal. This has the added advantage of giving the children opportunity to move around and not be “enslaved” in one room. One can simulate liberation from the tent in the desert to the luxury of the modern dining room. Of course, these are only a few of many possibilities that exist to add unique meaning to your Seder. One final suggestion, however, is to provide a variety of Haggadot for both children and adults. Modern versions of the Passover eve service have explanations, activities, beautiful pictures and other tools to stimulate interest and discussion. One of the most important mitzvot of Pesach is “V’Higadita L’Vincha,” teaching and transmitting our rich and ancient heritage to our children. By investing a small amount of preparation and planning, you can help foster the creation of eternal experiences and memories that will not only live in the hearts of your children, but will be transmitted by them to their children and their children’s children.
Best wishes for a “Zissen” (sweet) Pesach”,
Hazzan Michael, Laurel, Zev and Zachariah Krausman