Monday, April 14, 2008

Achieving Harmony at the Pesach Seder - Part 2

Guest Post by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern - You can read Part 1 HERE


Practical Advice for Conducting an Organized and Meaningful Family Pesach Seder

Part two

(Reprinted from the booklet with permission)

By Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern


Several pre-seder preparations can help make the seder run more smoothly:

1. Review the halachos of the seder, for example, when to cover the matzos and hold the cup, the requirements for drinking the four kosos and eating the matza, the halachos of the afikomen, etc.

2. Prepare pre-measured kezaisim of matza and maror for each person.

3. Have the proper size cups for the four kosos.

4. Organize the seating arrangement (separate rival siblings).

5. Require the entire family to take naps on erev Pesach.

6. Distribute nuts and other treats to the younger children (Shulchan Aruch O.C., 472:16).

7. Each child should have a haggada that will keep his interest during the seder; the smaller children should have illustrated haggados and the older ones should have haggados with commentaries suited for their age.

8. Start on time (Shulchan Aruch ibid, #1).

Chinuch Techniques:

The Seforim write that a father has a unique divine power on the night of Pesach to inspire his children with lasting emunah in Hakadosh Boruch Hu (Yalkut Lekach Tov, Hagada Shel Pesach, p.43). Therefore, even if one’s children already know the stories of yetziyas Mitzrayim, the father should make every effort to retell them enthusiastically. The Torah states that Hashem performed the ten plagues in Egypt “Le’ma’an te’saper be’oznei vincha u’ven bincha,…” so that we will relate to our sons and our son’s sons how Hashem smote the Egyptians (Shemos 10:2). Why are our grandchildren mentioned? The answer is, that when we tell our sons about the miracles in Mitzrayim, the story must penetrate with such an impact that our sons will be able to pass what we tell them to their sons. To accomplish this, Rav Dessler writes that we can learn chinuch guidelines from the way Chazal formulated the Hagada (Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol.4, p. 239).

The following are some examples:

1. Encourage the child to ask questions. Chazal realized that the best way for children to retain information is through question and answer. This is why the seder starts with the four questions and requires that certain actions throughout the seder be “Kedai she’yishalu hatinokos” – in order that the young children should ask (Shulchan Aruch O.C, 473:6, Mishna Brura, 471:50). Therefore, the father should prepare stories or questions that will stimulate the children’s minds. An interesting insight into this concept is the seder night minhag among some Chassidim to light a “Ma Nishtana candle,” which is larger and burns longer than the other yom tov candles. The purpose of this minhag is to create curiosity among the children to ask why this night is different than all other nights. In addition, Chazal say that Hashem lit up the night the Jews left Egypt. Therefore, the candle, which symbolizes light, actually symbolizes the light of the night of yetziyas Mitzrayim (B’nei Yissaschar, Nissan, 5th ma’amer #21, Va’yaged Moshe, ch. 6 # 2).

2. Dramatize the seder. Children learn more from what they see then from what they hear. (This is why role modeling plays such a vital part in a child’s chinuch). Rav Chaim Friedlander remarks that the Haggada was formulated in a manner to illustrate (lehamchish) the events of yetzias Mitzrayim. For example, the charoses is a thick mixture to simulate the texture of the clay that the Jews worked with. The cinnamon sticks represent the straw that they put into the bricks, and the red wine is a reminder of the spilled blood of the Jews. The salt water represents the tears that the Jews shed because of the Pharoh’s oppression. We eat maror to feel the bitterness of the slavery, and we recline as a symbol of freedom (Sifsei Chaim, Moadim, vol. 2, p.357).There is also a minhag of placing the afikomen on one’s shoulder to commemorate the dough that was on the Jews’ shoulders when they left Egypt (Mishna Brura, 471:59). Also, in the section “Raban Gamliel omer,” we lift the matza and maror when saying “Matza zu” and “Maror zeh” (Shulchan Aruch O.C., 473:7, Mishna Brura ad loc). The following are some suggestions for dramatizing the Jews’ hard labor and demonstrating some of the plagues: a) Pass around some freshly grated horseradish to sniff (the irritating effect will give the feeling of how bitter the slave labor was). b) Make a horrible-tasting red liquid to simulate drinking blood. c) Toss around rubber frogs and insects when saying the plagues. d) Yelling, “Where’s Moshe, where’s Moshe?” to simulate Pharoh’s desperate cry during makas bechoros. (Rav Friedlander also notes that the Rambam’s version of the Haggada text is “Chayav adam le’haros es atsmo ke’eelu yatza meMitzrayim” (Hilchos Chametz U’Matza, ch.7 # 6 ). This means that one is obligated to show himself as if he had gone out of Mitzrayim and implying that one must do various acts to demonstrate the feeling of yetziyas Mitzrayim.)

3. Prepare appropriate divrei Torah. One of the most essential factors necessary to conduct a meaningful seder is to ensure that the divrei Torah be diversified to correspond to the intellectual levels of the different children. Only then will they be properly understood and have long-lasting effects. This is obvious from the pasuk, “Chanoch l’na’ar al pi darko…” (Mishlei 22:6) – educate a child according to his way, as well as the reason for the different answers given to the four different sons.

4. Keep the vorts short and to the point. The section of “Dayeinu” is divided into individual parts to teach us that we should explain each concept separately. Children have short attention spans, and unless the father is telling a story, they will probably start to daydream if the vort is too long.

(Picture courtesy of Z Design)

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