Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Conversation With Chabakuk Elisha - Running An Enjoyable Seder

Hagaddah - Fernwald DP Camp, 1946

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.


At March 28, 2007 at 7:56:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that the Haggadah of the Chassidic Masters is a really good resource. Preselect (even bookmark) the stories you want to tell from it, or from any other expanded haggadah. Keep in mind who at the table might be interested in or bored by any given addition to the basic reading.

Best wishes to all for a sweet, kosher, happy Pesach!

At March 28, 2007 at 9:07:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

Rabbi Akiva Greenberg is an old friend and mentor, someone who taught a bunch of us when we first became frum some 30+ years ago! He is a Vishnitzer Chassid with a wealth of knowledge in both Torah and Negina. I recently met up with a son-in-law of his in Chatzor HaGelilit [near Tzfas].
In one of the last years that the Modzitzer Rebbe ZTvK"l was in Tel-Aviv, the neighbors couldn't handle the late-night singing on Hoshana Rabba night in the Sukka. First they threw a water balloon into the Sukka, then they called the police. As the two officers came into the Sukka, the Rebbe ZT"L was handing out Kugel to everyone. As they entered, the Rebbe saw them, turned to them, and gave them each a piece, with a big smile! All they could do was smile, and enjoy the Kugel before they went on their way!

At March 28, 2007 at 12:10:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Here's a nice thing we do. My wife bought items to pass out to all of the kids to re-enact the plagues during that part of the hagada. She got most of the stuff at:
We use sunglasses for choshech, collapsable cows for Dever, confetti for kinim, jumping plastic frogs for tzefardea, red jello mix at the bottom of a glass pitcher that we pour water into for Dam, plastic wild animals we'd attack each other with for Arov, etc.

Chag kasher v'sameach!

At March 28, 2007 at 12:55:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It worth to tape some Pesach nigunim from those who know many of them to learn them in advance.

At March 28, 2007 at 6:41:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone has stomach issues from matzah try whole wheat. the hand whole wheat tastes very much like the regular as opposed to whole wheatbread which doesnt taste as good as reg. I don't think I need to go into detail but it might be useful for many.

At March 29, 2007 at 12:25:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some in Ukraine had a minhog to eat only whole weat matzos (this is a minhog in Monistritch and Hornostaypl). In Yiddish they are called "rozove matzes".

At September 2, 2009 at 10:34:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm Rabbi A. Greenberg's daughter. I do remember that Pesach night in Chicago when the police came knocking on the door towards the end of the Seder. We, the kids, were hiding under the beds/cribs in fright, as the neighbor had already warned us that she was calling the police.
My father, zol zain gezunt, finished the seder for all the guests, got up, rolled down his Peyos (which were curled up behind his ears), put on his Shtreimel (chassidic fur hat), stuck his head into the bedroom and told us not to worry, then hooked his arm into the crook of the policeman's arm and walked out with him like best of friends. The next morning, finding Tatty home (not arrested) we asked excitedly what he told the policeman. Tatty said: "The story of Pesach, of course!".

At May 13, 2012 at 6:37:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baruch dayan emet. May his neshama be elevated to the highest levels; and may he be a blessing for us all. He will be missed.


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