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Mine’s Longer

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

long seder

I’ve never actually heard anyone say this…but you know it’s what they’re thinking when they ask:

So, what time did you guys finish up?

As if the length of a seder in any way indicates how meaningful the seder experience was to those in attendance.

On the other hand, I’ve gotta think that a seder completed in under a couple of hours… Well, it just doen’t quite cut it. There is actually a 30 minute seder that is on the market. I have it. It is like a very nice model seder that one might use for a religious school learning experience. Or perhaps as a way to teach adults about some of the key elements that go into a seder. But there are a few things missing…like the MEAL! In this version, the entire seder occurs prior to the meal. Now, I have heard that there are families that never quite make it make to the liturgy after dinner. But that really is a departure from what the evening is meant to be.

And yes, sometimes there really is a right way to do something. We Jewish Professionals are terribly afraid to ever point this out to people for fear that we come across as judgemental. How can we transmit our heritage, rituals, history, behaviours, etc. if we are unable to state that “this is the way we ought to do this”?

What is a seder anyway? Modeled on the Hellenistic dinner with discourse, the seder follows a prescribed order of readings and actions meant to recall the watershed moment of our collective history. The main course is surrounded by ritual foods eaten both before and after it, reminding us that it is meant to be the highpoint of the evening. To reposition the main course until after the prayers and readings, shifts the entire focus of the evening and elevates the chicken/brisket/whatever to a greater place of importance.

The evening is meant to be long. Discussions, debates, and learning are necessary in order to keep the service “relevant.”

My kids cannot handle the late hour. And instead of growing weary as the hour gets late, they get wired and wild. It is NOT pretty. Peach made it to the first cup of wine on the first night…and didn’t even go to the second seder. Beernut and Poppyseed made it through the first half of both nights. And then, it was as if they were possessed.

Time for a quick escape.

Ultimately, I want that my kids should have fond memories of the seders. We don’t do puppets. No one dresses up like Bibical characters. Nor are there any art projects. It’s not our style.

What they do have is a seder where people approach it with seriousness. Not to be confused with somberness. There is much discussion and heartfelt participation. Contemporary stories of bondage are shared along with prayers for the redemption of the captives. And Elijah. And singing. And lots and lots of food. And rainbow cookies!

So they can’t stay for the whole thing. There’s always next year!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, 23 April 2008 7:04 pm

    you know, you’re right. we still do mostly the same seder we’ve always done, now peppered with a few songs from david and a few other things, but we haven’t made that many changes. most of the attendees are adults and so we do it for them. we don’t have as much discussion as we had before there were noisy children, but we will again…

    pediatric judaism just doesn’t survive…

  2. Wednesday, 23 April 2008 8:23 pm

    I led an abbreviated seder, but that was really based upon the children. We wanted them to see it from start to finish.

    As they get older it will be easier to extend it without fear of a major meltdown.

  3. vlh permalink
    Thursday, 24 April 2008 8:44 am

    Without any family in town (poor me, hear the violins?), we had four families including our own — three families are interfaith, with three people who had never been to a seder, one family in which the children are being raised religion-neutral and two families where the children are newly Jewish (not raised as Jews from birth). We did the full seder (and yes, everyone came back after the meal. Duh. It’s not over yet. Would you tell your football player kid they don’t have to go back to the field after half-time? Come on. Even if all they do is sit on the bench.) but there wasn’t deeper-meaning discusion. There WAS, however, nine children participating, including a pre-reader whose brother whispered the words in her ear so she could read aloud, eight adults getting to know each other, lots of joyful squeals, and 13 guests that may not have otherwise remembered we were slaves and now we’re free. Everyone where they’re at, I guess. And the good news is that this year I didn’t cry for lack of a crowd. Although I would have liked about double the size. After all, whether there are 17 ro 34, I’m still cooking for 50. It’s genetic.

  4. Thursday, 24 April 2008 9:29 am

    My in-laws bought a new hagaddah this year that they thought would be more family-friendly. It is a shorter seder than we used to do in years past – maybe 45 minutes before dinner and 15 minutes after dinner – but it’s important to me that H was able to participate in all the key elements. (And yes, she was crazily wired by the end, and it was not pretty.) We read books about Passover and sang songs in the days leading up to seder so she’d have a refresher on what was going to take place (she’s 4) and she was interested and able to follow along, at least at a certain level.

    HOWEVER, her 18-month-old brother, let down from his high chair and allowed to roam free (which he usually does at his grandparents’ house) decided to play by splashing around in the toilet. So between retrieving/stripping/scrubbing him and plying him with chicken soup, my job as songleader was substantially interrupted. I’m happy for the bulk of the group to get to have long, involved discussions and debates over their leisurely meal, but it’s not the same seder I’m experiencing!

    Maybe in a few years.

  5. Thursday, 24 April 2008 3:35 pm

    We used the 30 minute seder hagaddah this year because a) we were having four 4-year olds in attendance (hint for parents — don’t seat them all together — what *was* I thinking? and b) a good number of the attendees weren’t Jewish or hadn’t been to a Seder in a long time (what do you do when someone brings french bread to your Seder (it was a Jewish person too…)?

    The 30 minute Seder still took an hour — we added back in the bits we thought were missing — like the part after the meal. It was OK…

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