Thursday, April 3, 2014

Do You Have a Box of Grumblies at Your Seder?

By Marcy Leiman 

Parenting Through a Jewish Lens had a fabulous event at Hebrew College on March 30—   Matzah Matters attracted nearly 70 parents, children, educators and community members.  The afternoon included two learning sessions: Rabbi Benjamin Samuels discussed ways to make the Haggadah and the Seder your own, and Elisha Gechter presented various commentators on the Haggadah.  I attended Rabbi Samuels’ session.

Reflecting on our discussion, two points stayed with me:  1. prepare for and invest in the Passover Seder, and 2. keep everyone at the table.  In reference to the first point, in my family, I am the one who invites the guests, cleans the house, buys the food, cooks the meal, sets the table and prepares the dessert. How much more can I prepare and invest? What more can I give to my Seder? Rabbi Samuels suggested that we invest in a good Haggadah.  Ah, this is something that my family has not done. We’ve used the same maroon and yellow Passover Haggadah for the past twelve years. It’s antiquated; there are no color pictures, nothing for my two-year-old and six-year-old children to get excited about. Yes, this is something that we needed to do.  Immediately after coming home from Matzah Matters, my husband and I logged onto Haggadahs-R-Us and ordered Noam Zion and David Dishon’s A Different Night Family Participation Haggadah. I am excited to try this Haggadah out with my family this year, to spice up our Seder and invest /prepare a bit more.

Rabbi Samuels’ second point was to keep everyone at the table. What? My cooking and Martha Stewart-esque set table are not enough to keep everyone at the table? Rabbi Samuels showed us a “box of grumblies” that he uses at his Seder. This box contains little tchotchkes; simple games, Passover-themed costumes, and various knick-knacks. If someone (regardless of whether an adult or a child) asks a good question during the Seder, they get to wear a special costume. If children get hungry or antsy, Rabbi Samuels invites them to pick something out of the box of grumblies. The point:  the mitzvah of having a Seder is for everyone at the table to hear the story of Exodus from Egypt. Everyone must be present and engaged. Some may call it bribery; Rabbi Samuels calls it “box of grumblies.”

So, with our new Haggadot, our ten plagues finger puppets, jumping frogs and Ping-Pong balls for locusts, our family is ready with our own box of grumblies, our own new Seder. I encourage you to re-evaluate your Seder, question what you’ve always done and perhaps invest in your own Passover box of grumblies.

 Marcy Leiman is the Associate Director of Parenting Through a Jewish Lens. She lives in Needham with her husband and two children. 

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