Conversation With Chabakuk Elisha - Running An Enjoyable Seder
A Simple Jew asks:
What is your recommendation to keep everyone engaged and happy at the seder?
Chabakuk Elisha answers:
My personal opinion (never happened yet though) is that the seder should have these basic rules:
Like any performance, the MC needs to be in tune with the audience. Most audiences like songs, stories and entertainment. Obviously, these things need to be geared to the taste that can reach the crowd, and there is quite an opportunity for dual-tracking at the seder.
For this reason, I believe that there needs to be review of the Haggada so that the MC can scatter spots for song, spots for story and spots for something fun. Getting stuck-in-the-mud at spots in the reading can bore the crowd to misery, so keeping the show moving is important, if time is getting to be a concern skip some extraneous activity and step on the gas.
I find the biggest mistake is to let the meal take to long, cause the best part is still to come.
A Simple Jew responds:
What do you do for the entertainment and how much time do you spend in advance of the seder preparing for it to run smoothly?
Chabakuk Elisha replies:
Well, the thing is that my seder is usually a very disorganized affair. My parents come over, and I more-or-less try to ride the wave. If I ran my own seder, I would use the Artscroll Haggadah of the Chassidic Masters (a treasure-trove of stories) and involve the kids as much as possible. As it is, I think much of the conversation is between my father and I, and over the kids heads. Every year we try to run it better, but it doesn't seem to really happen (maybe this year).
But I think you can prep it in a few hours. Run through the Haggada and make some notes - try to scatter some songs that you might know and look for some good stories and a couple light insights (Rabbi Akiva Greenberg says nothing during the Haggada, he just sings the entire thing. There is a famous story about a neighbor that called the police because of the late-night singing, and when the policeman came he was awed. He asked if he could just sit there - and he sat there until it was over. Afterwards he asked about the Pesach and the Seder, and he told Rabbi Greenberg, "Wow Rabbi, you should write a book!" and Rabbi Greenberg said, "The book has already been written.")
There are minhagim to make it fun, and I think that we have so many rituals during the seder that, if done with a little gusto, can all make it a very enjoyable experience.