“Nu lets get on with it, it’s late.” Sounds familiar? How many times have we heard this at Passover Seders. For many Jews, Passover has become a kind of family reunion where everyone gets together, we read a bit of the Hagadah and then it’s on to the main event—dinner. The most popular Hagadah is the Maxell House. It has ads for coffee, no commentary or insights, the translation is, well a bit dated and it lacks inspiration. For some the four questions have become, what’s for dinner, why so long, when do we eat, and what’s for dessert!?
We seem to be missing the central idea about Passover. Family reunions are nice, grandma’s kugel recipe is a wonderful gastronomic delight. It’s great to catch up with the relatives and the all the family news. But that’s not the point of Pesach. The Torah tells us that we have a Mitzvah of Higadata Lebincha—you should tell your children on that day. The primary purpose of Passover is to transmit to the next generation what our parents and grandparents told us, that their grandparents lived through the monumental event of the Exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago. And that the Jewish people were transformed from slaves into a nation and given a special mandate and responsibilities by G-d.
The core of Passover is the educational process of imparting to the next generation the legacy of our beginnings as a people.
We put time into preparing the house, buying special foods and inviting over friends and family to this celebration. At times we miss the main point of the whole exercise. We are to relive the Exodus and share that sense of excitement with the next generation.
Over last few century something got lost. Jews came over from Europe and never really acquired the in-depth Jewish learning needed to understand the scope of the Passover story. The Hagadah, while quaint and nostalgic, does not seem to speak to all of us. We remember our grandparents singing a melody but in many cases we understand the story of Passover and the Hagadah only superficially.
You can make your Passover Seder much more relevant and meaningful. With a little time and preparation your family Passover celebration could be much more meaningful. Here are a few suggestions in transforming your Passover into a more meaningful experience.
- Get everyone involved: Don’t sit at the head of table and read the Hagadah. Involve everyone. Have each person, young and old, read a short paragraph of the Hagadah. Let them choose the language that is easier for them, be it Hebrew or in English.
- Take a deeper look: Today there is a wide variety of Hagadahs with wonderful English translations. Buy a few different Hagadahs with various commentaries and give them out to at the Seder. Every year before Passover, I purchase one or two new Hagadahs to gain some fresh insights. Many of the great classic commentaries have been translated into English. Ask you guests take a look at the commentaries and share their insights during the Seder.
- Prepare for the Seder yourself: Do some reading and make notes of some of the perspectives from different Passover commentaries. The internet is a great resource, there are many websites with lots of information. You can visit our site.
- A little debate: Ask questions, encourage the participants to debate the story of Pesach just as the Sages did millennia ago.
- Engage the kids: Share with them some stories insights etc. My wife always insists that they should be center stage. Have them sit next to you and keep them involved. In years to come the memories from your Seder will be their connection to their Heritage. Don’t forget to promise them something for finding the Afikomen, but don’t make it too grandiose.
- Tell the whole story: Don’t skip any of the Hagadah, it’s a meaningful experience. So people don’t get hungry put some light veggies and other foods on the table.
- Get a nice variety of wine: Kosher wine today is great. You can find all kinds in your local market.
- Don’t forget those who are not at a Seder: The Seder tells us of the four sons. Each son has a unique personality and need. Today there are an ever-growing number of fifth children: those who are not even at the Passover Seder. Ask around at work or check with each of your friends who may not be making a Seder or have one to go to. Invite them over and have them share the experience with you. More guests will make your Seder interesting and you will be doing a great Mitzvah by involving more Jews in learning about their Heritage.