At its heart, the Pesach seder is a family education experience. In fact, it has its roots in the text of the Mishnah where the rabbis explain just how we are to tell the story to our children. This text, in Tractate Pesachim of the Mishnah, is something that our middle school students explore as they look at the seder from a different angle than their preschool buddies.
As our students progress from preschool to lower school to middle school, they engage and learn about each of the holidays in a developing way. Our preschool students have been practicing the Mah Nishtahnah, Four Questions, in preparation for being called upon at their seders for this time honored tradition. Third graders through Giveret Sharaby’s Yemenite seder discover that there is more than one way to experience a seder. Our eighth graders are engaged in a close reading of the Haggadah while other middle school students explore Hebrew stories of analogous exodus experiences.
Our sedarim are as rich as we are willing to make them and we encourage you to bring your children into the conversation. Use what they are learning at school as a starting point for them to take ownership of this incredible learning experience and make it more than just a large meal with matzah. Offer them the opportunity to take a leadership role for a portion of the seder. Send them off to find new texts, songs, or interesting minhagim, customs, that are new to your family or tell them stories about the sedarim of your youth and help them breathe new life into old family traditions.
For years, my father has been collecting e-mails, news clippings, and the occasional Pesach ad for inclusion in the Yares Family Supplementary Haggadah. This collection has grown so large that we now have not only the supplement to the Supplementary Haggadah, but have moved into the supplement for the supplement to the Supplementary Haggadah. Thankfully, we don’t attempt to read everything, but instead rely on these texts as well as a variety of haggadot at the table to bring context, commentary, and the occasional joke.
This is just one of our family minhagim that have enriched our sedarim. Kehillat Schechter is made up of families from a wide variety of backgrounds, each of whom has their own rich connections to Jewish practice. To help us create a Seder experience for our children and for ourselves that help us with re-living the Exodus from Egypt, we want to hear about your family traditions and customs.
What happens around your seder table that is unique for your family? Is there an orange of the seder plate? Do you sit on the floor for the meal? Does your haggadah consist of songs and rhymes that could have been written by Dr. Seuss?
Share this with the community on our Facebook page and we’ll share some highlights as we head into Pesach next week.
Dr. Ari Yares