Help the family relate to unbearable slavery
FAMILIES PUT lots of effort into making the Seder service interesting but it is easy to overlook the potential of the Sedertable surroundings when it comes to telling the Exodus story. We all learn and explore ideas in different ways and, as well as the discussion, plays and games that take place at the table, why not use the nearby area to look at the story? Last year, I set up a little “museum” near the Seder table, with several displays to wander round and look at — just one more way for people to give people an “in” to the themes. I began with some basics. A display explained the word “freedom”, in one of its simplest dictionary definitions, means “the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved” and the Israelite Exodus is the most famous escape to freedom ever told.
Then another display pointed out that the Egyptians were not too bad to the Israelites at first. In fact, they were pretty welcoming, until the government suddenly decided to behave differently.
“Can you think of stories, films, or real-life examples where powerful people change from being nice to nasty?” I asked, presenting a question to which even some of the youngest Seder guests could respond.
I wanted to use this extra forum, beyond the formal Seder service, to raise the subject of just how major the impact of the Exodus story has been, including beyond the Jewish community.
One of the ways I did this was by displaying a picture of Bob Marley. “Do you recognise this man?” I asked, in a note next to his picture. “It’s Bob Marley and he wrote a song called Exodus, which goes: ‘Send us another brother Moses. From across the Red Sea. Movement of Jah people.”
I also used the “museum” to make some modern connections for the younger people at the
Seder. “Did you know that even in the lifetime of most of the people here tonight, there were Jews who wanted to leave a country where the rulers said
‘no’?” I asked. “This country was called the USSR and the rulers were cruel people called the Soviets. Like in Egypt, everyone was screaming “let my people go”. Next to a picture of Natan Sharansky I wrote: “This man was put in prison for wanting to leave. “
Circling back to the traditions being observed at the Seder table, I set up a small table with two large teddy bears. Their food and positions on their chairs connected Passover themes and Passover traditions.
Free Teddy sat comfortably — even leaning, with time to savour his food, while Unfree Teddy sat straight, ready as always to work, as someone who is not free can be told at any second to stop eating and get back to work.
The nice thing about a visual display like this is that people enjoy a wander and a chat before and during Seder and this creates an informal focus. A display can emphasise whatever themes and messages a particular family wants and the children can get involved in designing it.
The only complaint at our display was from Unfree Teddy. He still has matzah meal stuck in his fur.
Now we are free
But once we were slaves