Story-ideas-1011172

Isn’t there enough to do?

  • HayleyLevitanSeders3
Many families do their best to race through the Pesach haggadah to get to the food, while others do their best to make it meaningful. Hayley Levitan and her family have made Pesach a themed event of the year and their success has spread by word of mouth.
by HAYLEY LEVITAN | Apr 06, 2017

I must confess, I’m one of those people who can start to panic at the mention of the word Pesach – the cleaning, shopping, endless to-do lists. In fact, seder prep could be overwhelming and, like for many people, it was my most stressful Jewish holiday. 

Then one year, my husband and I decided to host a pre-Pesach shiur about the meaning of the seder. We then decided to try and find a way to get this meaning across without everyone falling asleep in their bowl of soup at the table. 

For the record, we host both seders and the majority of our guests would probably appreciate an abridged version of the seder. You see, we expect them to not only get through the whole haggadah, but then to add meaningful discussion to this, which is no small challenge. 

Of course, today there are props for the plagues, bingo games and other ways to make the night more fun and engaging, especially for the youngest among us. We realised then that we needed something more, and so that year we created our own “Amazing Race for Pesach” game. 

We made maps of the journey from Egypt to Israel, broken down into the 15 steps of the seder along the way. We had challenges our guests had to complete that made reading about the steps and why we do them, a little more palatable (blindfold tasting to see which of the karpas options is on offer anyone?). We had a discussion around “freedom”. And incredibly at the end of the night, we had fun. 

The next year, having set the tone, we decided a little less emphasis on a game and more of how Pesach is relevant to us today.  Our theme was “Home and what it means to have a home”, focusing on the wandering through the desert for 40 years. We gave our guests homework to send through quotes about a home and had these printed and put in jars along the table.

But the real meaning came through when we moved our furniture out, hired some beanbags and had a change of perspective as we reclined near the floor eating off low tables discussing not just Pesach but the refugee crisis taking place at the time. 

The following year we had tables split by our sea of mini-figures crossing through them, but again the real meaning was found in the “homework” our guests participated in and the discussion that resulted from the quotes around “integration and identity”.  

So, is the extra work worth it? 

I am completely a décor, party-planning kind of person, so no question for me that the themes make the holiday that much more exciting, although it’s probably not for everyone. 

What should be for everyone, though, is going beyond the food, and making the seder relevant to everyday life at every person’s level around the table. 

It is amazing how much everyone participates when they are not overwhelmed by their level of Hebrew, or lack of knowledge of how things work in a seder or a story they might not feel they relate to. 

And there is certainly less of a feeling of counting how many pages still to go or wondering if we really have to sing that song when you might let your team down as you race to the finish line.

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