By Judith Gampel, Ed.D.
The month of April brings us my favorite holiday of the year, Passover. Pesach is a wonderful holiday to build lifelong family memories. Traditionally, the whole family and all its extensions have the opportunity to sit around the table and tell the story of the Israelite people’s Exodus from the land of Egypt. The storytelling is traditionally read from a book called a Haggadah at a special meal called the Seder. Haggadah is a Hebrew word that means “telling.”
There are all kinds of Haggadahs written, but adapted from the book of Exodus in the Torah, the story is the same. The Jewish people were slaves in the land of Egypt. As slaves, the Jewish people worked very hard, building pyramids. Moses and his brother Aaron pled with the Egyptian ruler, Pharoah, for the freedom of the Israelites. But Pharoah refused to free the Israelite slaves. Each time Pharoah refused, a series of terrible plagues were brought on the Egyptian people. Finally, the last plague was so heinous that Pharoah agreed to let the Israelites leave Egypt.
As the Israelites rushed to leave Egypt they were unable to bake their bread. The bread turned into crackers, called matzah. Meanwhile, Pharoah changed his mind and his soldiers began to chase the Israelites. When the Israelites got to the Red Sea, a miracle occurred. The Red Sea parted, and the Israelites were able to wade through. However, when the Egyptian soldiers got to the waters, the sea closed up. The Israelites were saved. The Israelites were liberated and able to practice their religion.
Passover Memories of From My Childhood
I have fond childhood memories of two nights of family fun. One night we would be with my mom’s family. The Seder wouldn’t begin until sundown. With 17 first cousins, many times the table was so long that I wasn’t even in the room with the Seder leader! Seders with my mom’s family went by the book, and I mean the whole Haggadah! Seders with my dad’s family, four brothers, were a little raucous. With only 9 cousins we were usually in the same room! The tunes were invented on the spot. We ended the Seder with the adults having a glass of Slivovitz and everybody singing Hatikvah and God Bless America, and some Boy Scout song, whose words I wouldn’t teach my children.
Here are some easy-to-duplicate ideas to make your Seder family friendly:
- When your guests arrive, place the name of one of the characters in the Passover story on their backs. Throughout the evening they will have to ask questions of the other guests to find out whose name is on their backs.
- Assign parts to your guests. Underneath their plates put assignments like four questions, four sons, plagues, etc.
- Give each guest a special hat for their role during the Passover Seder. Another hat idea is to give out hats for the four sons; wise, wicked, simple and the bore.
- Give out some chain belts. Whenever the word slavery is said, the people with the chains rattle their chains.
- Move the Seder to the floor in a tent like the Jews lived in the desert. Wear costumes- King Pharaoh, Moses, Miriam, Elijah, a pyramid, the plagues, etc.
- Find parodies of the Seder tunes on the internet to Frozen, or Shake it Off by Taylor Swift.
Whether your family follows the Silverman Haggadah word for word or creates their own Haggadah, your children will remember these nights for the rest of their lives. When your children become parents themselves they will then imitate the way Seders were run for their new families. Today, my son carries on the tradition by leading themed Seders each year. We have had everything from a women’s lib Seder to an NBA Seder to last year’s golf-themed Seder. From generation to generation, l’dor v’dor.
Special Note From MMB Events Team Member Elyssa Bloom
When asked to do a piece on Passover for Miami Moms Blog, I eagerly accepted! I was so excited to share my experiences and culture with the rest of Miami. When it came time to writing, I realized that I didn’t have a tradition yet to share. My oldest son is just 3-years-old and each year we have celebrated Passover in a different way. That’s when I asked the director of his school to share her traditions and knowledge with us. Judi has been the director at Bet Shira Early Childhood Center for over 25 years and is an important part of the Miami Jewish community. Thank you, Judi!