By Laura Seymour
It is time to begin planning for Passover (yes, I know Purim is barely over). The rush to the stores for favorite items will begin — we start gathering kosher-for-Passover diet cola (a real essential in my family) the minute it hits the stores.
The cleaning probably won’t start for a while, although so much is last minute. What about planning the seder? Are you going to just bring out the same Haggadah as last year — have you been looking for the Maxwell House Haggadah at the store — or are you going to try something new?
There are so many options for Haggadot that it is a challenge to find the best one for your family. One year for our second seder, I brought out a rather offbeat Haggadah thinking my teenagers would love it. After about 10 minutes, they insisted I put it away (or throw it away) and go back to a more traditional choice.
There are many new ones out every year including one called “Please, Don’t Pass Over the Seder Plate.” This is great for young families. For those of you willing to try my family method, here is the idea: We have a simple (and inexpensive) Haggadah that everyone has. Then everyone has another Haggadah (or two), and we offer different texts and commentary throughout the seder. And we also have a few Chumashim for us to look at the story of the Exodus. It is a little complicated and sometimes gets lengthy, but we have great discussions, lots of questions raised and lots of thinking and experiencing. Try it.
Now this doesn’t work as well when you have lots of young children, unless you plan lots of games and activities for them. It’s also important is to involve them in the questions and answers. The Four Questions are not the only ones for children to ask. Encourage them to come up with good ones.
Preparing for your seder with young children requires lots of planning, but don’t forget to plan for the adults — you want it to be meaningful for the children but also for the adults. Plague bags with toys for each of the plagues are fun, but how do we teach our children that the plagues were bad? And then we must balance that with not scaring children — it is a challenge.
Begin now to plan your seder so that the learning experience and meaningful memories happen for all ages. Then don’t forget that Passover is not over with the seder. Keeping Passover in the traditional way is not something every family has done, but it is a wonderful learning experience for young children (even when challenging for parents).
Start small: Just eliminate bread and eat matzah. But even if you have always kept Passover traditionally, take the time for the discussion. Now that you can have almost everything (from rolls to cereal to tacos), the question becomes, “Can you keep the law but lose the spirit of the law?”
Laura Seymour is director of Jewish life and learning and director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas.