Educationally Speaking – March 2018

A Seder to Remember

Debi M. Rowe, MAJE, RJE, Director of Education and Programs

My friend and teacher Ron Wolfson tells the following story:

Imagine our surprise when one year we arrived for seder at the door of our friends in our dressy clothes and they greeted us wearing the long, flowing robes of Bedouins! “Welcome to our seder! Please take off your shoes before you come in.”

We dutifully took off our shoes and entered their home. We saw the table set with fine china and crystal, seemingly ready for the seder guests. However, our hosts led us right past the dining room, down the hall and into their large family room. We were hardly prepared for the sight of that room.

Draped from the vaulted ceiling were large white bed sheets, forming a tent-like structure encompassing the center of the room. All the furniture had been taken out, except for some beanbag chairs and overstuffed pillows; in the center of the “tent,” on a low coffee table, was the seder plate.

“Welcome to our home in the desert. The seder ceremony is a simulation of what really happened on that first night of the Exodus from Egypt, so we’ve decided to conduct our seder in this tent. Please make yourselves comfortable–take off your ties and jackets–and recline with your kids on the floor.”

We may not all feel qualified to lead a whole seder, but I know that each of us can think of at least one way to bring this chapter of our people’s story to life. So, if you are hosting a seder this year, try adding one new element to enliven the experience for everyone. If you will be a guest, ask your hosts if you can contribute one element to the celebration. (You may even encourage your host to invite several families to do the same.)

As an educator, the seder is one of my favorite ritual experiences in Jewish life. We engage all our senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch (think about touching matzah if you couldn’t see it; similarly horseradish root, shank-bone, etc.)

What might you add to seder or to your celebration of Pesah to enliven the experience for you and your whole family?