It seems that each year the time passing between Purim and Passover gets a little shorter. And I don’t mean the hour lost in the jump to Daylight Savings Time. Yet, somehow, interspersed between the cleaning, organizing, shopping and cooking, I try to find the time to plan entertainment for the seder to get the most enjoyable bang for our buck. And it’s a lot of bucks – or shekels – so that needs to translate to a lot of enjoyment. Happily, in Israel we have one seder so we can focus all of our energies on that one, special night. Of course, that doesn’t leave room for a do-over the next night so we need to get it right the first time.
It would seem that the very nature of the concept of “seder” (literally meaning “order”) is that the whole event is already laid out for us, with specific plans and instructions. Technically this is true. That’s what the haggada is for. Though following it literally, with no forethought, is like taking a screenplay and just reading it through without a director, producer, art director or talent caster: it would be flat and boring.
For some reason, it’s taken a few thousand years for popular seder culture to catch onto this reality. The recent proliferation of books and activities to add some seder to the seder shows that I’m not the only one who thinks this way. I’ve seen multiple ‘plague kits’ with cute little ‘lice’ and other plaguely-items to toss around the table when reading about that part of the Exodus tale. I’ve seen puppets, crafts, and lots of other ideas to make the seder interesting, entertaining and fun. But there’s a catch: you have to plan these things in advance. Which means, while you’re busy with all the aforementioned Pesach preparations, you need to add yet another time-consuming project to your to-do list.
If you’ve made it this far in my article, I suppose I’ll reward you with a few of the things that we like to do at the seder, plus a new idea that we will incorporate this year. First of all, if there will be kids at your seder (‘kids’ being a word loosely defined as people over the age of 2, but too young to register for AARP) be sure to have a bag of chocolate chips, or other small treats, that can be generously doled out for prizes. Hopefully there will be at least one responsible adult who can be put in charge of chocolate chip doling. For every dvar Torah that’s recited, correct answer given, or tossed toy louse that doesn’t land in somebody’s wine glass, chocolate chips can be given out as rewards. These can be saved up until the end, and counted, for the more competitive types, or allowed to be eaten when nobody’s looking, depending on how you roll.
My new twist on the seder prize-collecting uses the new Hebrew Bananagrams game. Instead of (or in addition to) the chocolate chips, the receiver collects letters from the Bananagrams bag. When a person can spell a word associated with Pesach or the seder, he can trade it in for a bigger prize. Of course these bigger prizes must also be acquired in advance. They can be bigger pieces of chocolate (my favorite), other candies, or you may even use a stash of stuff from Oriental Trading Company or the like. The idea is to engage your audience and make it fun. I don’t know about you, but games and treats always speak to me. And to my kids.
As for activities, we’ve done everything from re-enacting the Exodus complete with the splitting of the Red Sea (walking through two blue tablecloths, hung on either side of a hallway, with little paper “fish” taped to them) to playing Pesach Tabu, trivia games, and anything else we could think of. It makes the seder fun, and a fun seder is something to look forward to – and enjoy for the many-hours-long duration.
So add seder entertainment to your to-do list. It’s only one more thing. Delegate some of the tasks to other participants; it’s their seder too. Just be sure that seder night will be a night to remember. And if you’re still celebrating two seder nights? Well there’s always Next Year in Jerusalem…