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

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