That’s the takeaway line from Marjorie Ingalls’ thoughtful column “Kids These Days,” and it pretty much sums up how I feel about Passover.
Ingalls writes about dichotomous wish have the seder be accessible and “fun” for the kids while at the same time teaching the complex meaning of the meal. (You, with the plague finger puppets, you know what I’m talking about, right?)
Ingalls’ Orthodox background means she experienced “the real deal” growing up, which surely did not entail masks and party favors. Conversely, because I didn’t go to Jewish day school and my parents weren’t strict about following the haggadah to the letter every year, I’m the obnoxious schmo trying to add more tedium to the seder. Or at the very least, finish the haggadah instead of wandering over to the couch to sleep off the food-and-Manischewitz coma.
For someone who continually errs on the treyf side of life, you might be surprised that I’m such a stickler for keeping with the order of things on this one. But sheesh, Passover is about our ancestors’ miraculous release from bondage and their subsequent forty-year walk in the desert; the very least we can do to honor them is to sit still for the damn story.
Listen, before you go accusing me of self-righteousness, you should know that I may have once put vodka and cranberry in the Shabbos kiddush cup. I’m all for elastic Judaism. But the seder shouldn’t be something to get out of (like Hebrew school) or dumb down (ahem, Tot Shabbat.) I want my children to understand that our lives are full of freedom because Moses and Miriam led our courageous foremothers and forefathers out of Egypt with nothing more than the words of an invisible God — that’s faith. On all others nights we can take that for granted, but on this night, you can sit that little tushy on a pillow and listen without expecting to be entertained by Dora the Explorer’s Map of the Exodus.
To answer Ingall’s question, “Is this a seder or a circus?” I say: This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around.
But I will admit to really enjoying the finger puppets, which I made dance on my father’s head during “Dayenu.” But I think Stephen Colbert has me beat:
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
Where do you stand? Read the whole article here and lemme know.
My favorite seders (for me, personally)are the ones with long intellectual/philosophical/pilpul discussions about the text with other likeminded folks.
However, that’s not a family seder, and certainly not a famile seder with young kids.
We’ve got a compromise – we have one seder that’s really focused on the kids. It isn’t all “fun” but it is all engaging – they don’t have to sit still the whole time, they help tell the story, they have sensory experiences besides the food to really cement it as a memorable event.
Then we have the “family” seder with Bad Cohen’s family, where the kids are mostly allowed to run around and do what they want while the adults go (tediously) through the full seder because the older generation is leading and they believe boring is better… (I’m being charitable here)
And then I go read jblogs to actually talk about the themes/values/etc behind the seder, since all of our friends with whom we could have real, adult-focused seders like this are rabbis and are both busy and far away.
Oh, and lots of sponge cake and wine. 🙂