Why I ‘Rewrote’ the Passover Haggadah
A few years ago my hubby and I were getting ready for bed after the seder and something wasn’t sitting right with me.
The seder was beautiful and yet I was feeling that the whole meaning of it was lost on our kids. I mean, the main purposes of the seder is supposed to be the passing on of the story of Passover to our children and yet the actual story is missing from the Haggadah…why?
We read on & on about Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaria, Z”L, and so on & so forth but the only real talk about the actual story of Passover is about “Avadim hayeenu l’Pharaoh b’Mitzrayim” “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt”. Yes, we mention the plagues and mention the exodus, but we don’t tell the whole story, no baby Moses, no Miriam, no burning bush…in fact, I couldn’t find Moses’ name mentioned once in my Haggadah…was there a reason?
The seder was so long for the kids and yet…how meaningful was it to them?
And then, right there in the washroom while brushing my teeth, I had an idea: I was going to make my own Haggadah.
And so I spoke to my Rabbi to ask if there was anything I needed to know in terms of “keeping it kosher”, asked if I was permitted to speak about Moses in the Hagaddah, and I got the all-clear.
The following year, I started working on The Toledano Family Haggadah. I did the following:
- kept all the blessings in Hebrew & English
- kept all the songs (Hebrew)
- added the story of Passover (basket, burning bush, etc) in English so the kids would understand
- eliminated all the passages I felt did not have obvious Passover significance to a child that also extend the length of the seder. (Sorry Rabbi Eleazar…)
- kept Rabbi Gamliel because it’s a great explanation of the symbols- highly relevant
- added the Song of the Four Sons (to the tune of ‘Clementine’)
- added a short blurb about “Miriam’s Cup” as my daughter had made one at school, and I felt that Miriam deserved a special mention.
Typing in Hebrew was an interesting exercise. Wherever I added dots, I did so by hand. I put in some clip art, had my then 4-year old daughter “decorate” the cover and had a whole bunch of copies made & spiral bound at the copy center.
We’ve been using it ever since. The seder is not only more manageable in length, but it is, in fact, more meaningful. Not only for the kids but for all of us.
We also do a few other things, like a plague demonstration that includes flicking plastic frogs, throwing “locust & lice” across the table as well as big plastic balls that we use as “hail” and so on. The meaning of “seder” is “order” and although this is a little less “orderly”, it’s a lot more meaningful.
In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to share this with you. A reminder that while it’s really important to keep our traditions, it’s also really nice to create new ones.
Although I’ll be blogging more before the holidays, I will take this opportunity to wish all those celebrating a healthy and happy Passover.
What are your family’s traditions? Have you started new ones for your kids? Please share with us!