Passover might be over, but it’s not too late (or too early…) to look back and start to bank ideas for next year. Rabbi Eddie Goldberg shares thoughts from his seder experience.
Recently a stressed-out father asked me what haggadah would be best for a family with youngish children. I was happy to recommend Sharing the Journey (CCAR Press), by Alan S. Yoffie and illustrated by Mark Podwal. But I reminded the dad that the haggadah does not a good seder make, by itself. The more important question is not which haggadah but what is one trying to accomplish. Indeed, a case in Chicago could be made for taking the children to Lake Shore Drive and asking them to imagine reaching a large body of water with a hostile army in pursuit. What would they do?
Nevertheless, due to Chicago weather (it was snowing during the seder) and inconvenient rules involving religious rituals on state beaches, the seder we conducted last night was a close second to being the most authentic Pesach moment for the eleven of us, mostly cousins, who shared a seder for the first time ever or, if not, then in about thirty-five years.
In preparing for the seder I knew that the new haggadah would serve us well with its respect for tradition, beautiful appearance, transliteration (mostly) and contemporary spin. I also spend a lot of time on a Power Point (or Keynote) component. (I even have a version of the new haggadah on my iPad.) Although I found the Visual Tefilah Haggadah supplement well done, I chose after considerable thought to use instead my own, which does not follow the new haggadah so much as provide a midrashic complement to it. In general I see electronic tefilah (or seders) as an enrichment and not mirroring of the worship or ritual experience.
I am glad to report that, due in some measure to my efforts and the invaluable help of my 23-year old USC computer science grad, the seder came off without a hitch. The incredible culinary talents and warmth of my wife did not hurt either. It was great presenting a seder experience to contemporaries who thought that Maxwell House equaled the tip-top of haggadah offerings. We also had a nine-year old cousin who had never attended a seder before. She entered visibly scared and annoyed and left the star of the seder and having asked all the right questions and more!
Tonight the seder will be presented at our congregation with the new haggadot. I know the food and atmosphere will not be able to match last night’s efforts but I am delighted that, if we succeed, the haggadah will have proven its worth once again as a sacred component of an evergreen evening.
Edwin Goldberg, D.H.L., is the senior rabbi of Temple Sholom of Chicago and is one of the editors of Mishkan HaNefesh, the new CCAR machzor.