Friday, April 10, 2009

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What Makes a Good Seder?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I love chassidic stories, as well as good insights into the Passover seder and the details of yetziyas mitzrayim (the exodus from Egypt). In the past I've used a variety of haggadahs, bringing chassidic stories, bringing insights, bringing deep explanations. I've had many a seder I thought was pretty good. Of course, I've also had sedarim (seders) that didn't work out so wonderful... bad choice of wine that left us feeling not so well, spending too much time focused on halachic aspects (going into exact measurements and times and so forth in great detail), children falling asleep early, major wine spillage, etc.

A few years ago I started focusing our seder more on the children. A bit of acting out parts of the seder, focusing on each child getting involved, made it much more involved for them. It was fun and I hoped more memorial.

This year was a surprise. The balance at the table was different, my youngest child isn't quite so young anymore, and I find my table filled with teenagers rather than young eager faces, including a guest from my son's yeshiva. I was outnumbered!

As we got into Maggid, my 15 year old daughter attacked... She challenged the language of the haggadah, she challenged why this point was important, why that was significant. She switched to Hebrew as she brought points from school and tore those apart. (Ahh, being attacked in two languages, help me!!!) I explained a point, and another, trying to catch my breath. She dug deeper, throwing paragraphs at me (in Hebrew). I had to start grabbing commentary in the haggadah.

While this was going on my 10 year old found the hidden afikoman (per Chabad minhag, we don't 'steal' it, I hide it and they 'find' it). Grrr, too soon.

We went back and forth, and finally she crossed her arms and said, "ok, I get it." I took a deep breath and after looking at the clock we sped ahead a bit to get to the mitzvot (matzah and marror).

To me this seemed like a bit of a failure. While we shared the haggadah going in, when we starting arguing the points our normal casual and playful pace and interaction was lost. We never got to any chassidic stories.

But this morning my older teen came over to me and said, "Wow, our guest said {and she seemed to agree} best seder ever!" And my 15 year old said, "This year was cool, the last couple years were boring."

I guess when you're a teen, challenging - and being taken seriously - is the best. And I have to recalibrate my seder thinking for my changing family.

A good seder fully involves each participant at their level and interest. That can be a difficult balancing act with different ages. But missing that needs and interests are changing as the children grow is a mistake, one that I've been making. Fortunately this year my 15 year old daughter rectified it.

Moadim l'Simcha, a gutten chol hamoed from Eretz HaKodesh, the Holy Land.


Neshama said...

So glad to read about your Seder! My only comment is:
Interaction, interaction, interaction.
Kol HaKavod.

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