Seder house rules: Jewish center holds practice ritual to prepare kids for Passover meal
Fresh from their afternoon naps and dressed in their finest clothes, the youngest members of a local Jewish congregation looked forward to attending the Passover Seder on Friday.
Their excitement grew in the days preceding the holiday because they knew just what to expect.
A model Seder was held on Monday at the Chabad Community Center for Jewish Life and Learning to give children an opportunity to "see and smell and taste" one of the rituals that takes center stage during the Jewish holiday.
Passover began at sundown Friday and ends at sundown April 27. It commemorates the story of the Hebrews' exodus from slavery in Egypt as told in the Book of Exodus. The Passover Seder is an interactive sacred meal, traditionally held in Jewish homes and synagogues, in which each part of the meal symbolizes a part of the Passover story.
Led by Nechoma Goldman, children at Chabad ate many of the foods destined to be on their Seder plate a few days later.
They ate a bit of romaine lettuce, which served as the maror, or bitter herb, to symbolize the bitterness of enslavement. They had a hard-boiled egg, which symbolized rebirth.
They sampled matzah, a flat unleavened bread often resembling a cracker, that is featured prominently at the traditional Passover Seder. They learned that it is an integral part of the Passover meal because there was no time for dough prepared by the Hebrew slaves to rise before they fled Egypt. There was no time to tarry, as the story chronicled in Exodus goes.
Nechoma Goldman, co-director of Chabad with her husband, Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, said the center hosts a model Seder as part of one of the Hebrew School lessons offered right before the holiday.
- Related to this story
- Video: Seder house rules
"We call this a model Seder so they can practice. We don't do all the extravagant details, but we do the finer points so this would help them be ready on Friday night," she said.
Teaching children about the Passover story is key.
"Children are very important to the Seder because the Torah says you must tell it to your children," Goldman said.
As part of the lesson, Goldman had the young people sing a traditional Seder song called the "Ma Nishtana," which she said means "What is different?" in Hebrew. The song helps children remember another important part of the Seder meal: the four questions.
The group sang the song so they would know what questions to ask about the Seder ritual when the opportunity came up at the congregation's Passover gathering.
Eventually, Goldman gave each child a rendition of a Seder plate to take home. She had them glue miniature pieces of paper on it that featured various foods found on the traditional Seder plate. In this way, they learned the order that the foods would be placed on their Seder plate, come Friday.
Goldman said over the years, parents have said their children insisted the family participate in the Chabad Seder because they understood its importance to the holiday, on their own level.
"It's important to bring the children," she said.