Passover is for the kids, right? Passover IS for the kids, isn’t it? My kids are teenagers, which means that they can shift from the Wise to the Wicked to the Simple to the oblivious child without notice. In fact, sometimes they can play more then one role at any given time. But I remember what it was like when they were younger. It can be a slog. Don’t get me started on the year when we hosted a Seder for ten. Four were under six, and my cousin and I were the only Jews. I was the Wicked Child before that night was over. All of this can be avoided if you use some Mussar wisdom to create a parent friendly seder.
Tip 1: Remember that Passover is for everyone, and act accordingly
As parents, we fall into the trap of making everything about the kids. Were we liberated from slavery in Egypt only to fall into bondage to our own children? One way to have a parent friendly Seder is to find something special for yourself. Put all the kids together at one end of the table, and all the adults at the other to experience some adult time. Or, if you are having a smallish Seder with family members, find a way to Honor your parents or elders. Your kids will be watching how you treat them. Dedicate one of the glasses of wine to your parents, and remember departed relatives who you love. This will help you feel a connection to your own past, which is both comforting and nurturing.
Tip 2: Eat early and often
I’ll put it out there. I am one of those hungry guys who doesn’t do well waiting for food. My father always told me that I had to wait to eat until we got through the Seder. I didn’t like it. Jews love food, but also practice food discipline. Keeping Kosher means many things to many people. To me it is about being mindful of what you put in your body. Mussar is about mindfully living your life. Because Passover is a time of joy, don’t sit there miserable and hungry, counting the pages until you get to the Hillel sandwich. Mindfully nibble on Matzah, and be sure to have a snack 30 minutes before the Seder begins.
Tip 3: Sing Dayenu with gusto
I am not a Dayenu fan. When I was a kid I wasn’t a fan. If you watch the beginning of this Maccabeats video, you’ll see what it was like for me to sing Dayenu. The kids are falling asleep, and the parents are trying to put a good face on it. Yet as the video goes on, this amazing a cappella group does each verse of the song in a radically different music style. The costumes and locations change to match. The message – Dayenu is whatever we make of it. The Soul Trait of Enthusiasm teaches that we should go about life with energy and focus. There is no point just phoning it in – it is a wasted opportunity to live life to the fullest.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said “Get into the habit of singing a tune. It will give you new life and fill you with joy.” Many people feel self conscious about their singing. (Have you ever noticed that this has little to do with how good a voice people have? Some people with terrible voices love to sing out loud, while unrequited opera singers are self conscious). If you have a terrible voice, think of the stories your kids can tell. “My mom has a terrible voice. But every Seder, she sang Dayenu at the top of her lungs.”
And why Dayenu? It is about the soul trait of Gratitude. You may be unsure of the Divinity, and not have any idea what Mana in the desert is all about. However, we all have many wonderful things in our lives that we take for granted. Friends, family, our own bed to sleep in, clean air to breathe. Just once a year, sing Gratitude at the top of your lungs.
Tip 4: Try one parent friendly seder tip that makes you uncomfortable
What do you think if these tips? One or more may put you out of your comfort zone. If that is the case, give it a try anyway. Passover is about spiritual liberation. It wasn’t easy for our ancestors to just pack up and cross the desert. To grow we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Let the joy of the Seder carry you just a bit farther than you would normally go.
You just might find yourself a step closer to the Promised Land.
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