Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Seder 2016

How were the sedarim this year?  I don't have that much to tell.  It was neither a great year nor an awful year.

We were not home for the sedarim.  We were with family at family friends.  That meant that the seder did not go according to our schedule.

While we were waiting for the seder to start, I took a bag of marshmallows and one of the boys asked why I took out marshmallows.  That served as our "karpas," an activity which doesn't belong in the normal way of things that triggers a question.  And Ari began telling the story to all the children, and I tossed out marshmallows for questions and answers.  So the first night Ari got to tell the story even before the seder began.  Once the seder started, Elazar (8) played chess with his friend.  I think Aharon fell asleep peacefully on the couch (which was the best thing I could hope for, that he would go without a massive tantrum or crying beforehand or during).  Jack (6) sat next to me and focused and paid attention the entire seder.  He didn't know exactly what was going on but he was happy to keep the place in the hagada with me.  He fell asleep in his chair during Hallel.  I handed Elazar matza when he got hungry, had him wash and read the bracha of hamotzi and al achilas matza.  He at maror with the rest of us and ate a sandwich.

Probably the funniest part was when we did "matza zu she'anu ochlim al shum ma?" "This matza that we eat--why?" And I said, "Elazar, you know why we eat matza!"  Because the boys have all been asking why do we eat matza, why can't we eat chometz.  And Elazar said, "Because when the Jews left Mitzrayim, their dough was left in the bread machine overnight and it didn't rise..."

It was nice in the sense that the boys were all thinking about the seder the days after it.  They came in to snuggle in the morning and they all had questions about Pesach and the halachos and the story.  So it ended up being fodder for discussion, which is part of the goal of the experience, I think.

Now Chana (14).  I think she fell through the cracks a bit.  Ari thought that I was handling it and for some reason he never quite sat down with her to tell her the story either night.  Obviously, she knows the story already.  In fact, before she stopped going to Chumash class, she was studying that section so she probably would have had some interesting things to contribute.  I don't know if he felt that she already graduated into the people who already know the story.

We had discussed before the seder about the Sforno's approach about Pharoah actually gaining his free will by having his heart hardened enough to refuse to listen without fear of the consequences (as opposed to the classic Rambam approach that Hashem took away Pharoah's free will and didn't allow him to set the Jews free).  And the purchase of R' Baruch Chait's Hagaddah was a great choice for her because she was very intrigued by the drawings.  (That reminds me, I would like to get an explanation for the midrash that the jew and mitzri both drank from the same place and one drank water and one drank blood.)

She also had drawn a picture before the seder when I asked her to envision how the story would look in anime.  ("Where Moshe is the awkward hero that turns bada$$ with the help of Gd," she told me.  And Aharon is the sidekick.)

(Note that Pharoah's posture gives a pretty clear explanation of leaning at the seder!)

But other than that, she sat at the seder, pretty uninterested, mostly waiting for it to be over.  Every time I tried to engage her by asking her a question or making an observation, she looked at me like she didn't comprehend what I was saying.  She said her brain couldn't process what I was saying.  She had no energy to think about the story, to engage emotionally or mentally with the seder.  It was discouraging.

I vaguely remember 14 not being a great seder year for Sarah.  At 13 or 14, we talked about the story for as long as she could tolerate (maybe 10 minutes?) and then zipped through the entire hagaddah because she wanted it to be over.  So this was similar, minus the ten minutes of discussion.  Which was sad, because that would have been nice, but on the other hand, she had been engaged in the free will aspect and relating to it artistically leading up to that night.  And she did very much like the art in the hagaddah.

So I look forward to hopefully one day engaging with Chana mentally about the story, because I think there are so many aspects which could be interesting to her psychologically and theologically.  L'shana haba b'Yerushalayim!

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