March 31, 2005

by Reb Yudel
Maybe we shouldn't teach the kids the Haggadah

Tzvi Grumet suggests a different approach to the Pesah Seder


The current popular practice of studying the Haggadah in advance, so that the children (or their parents) can recite insights about the text of the Haggadah, is unknown to the authors of the Mishnah, and may even contravene the essence of the design of the seder. The oral and interactive/dynamic transmission during the seder was a seminal part of its conception.

Creating a contemporary educational program for the seder needs to focus on the parents as much as on the children, restoring the parent's role as a key transmitter of an oral tradition, and should account for the essentially non-text component of the evening.

In the younger grades, model seders should be held for parents, and not their children.

Educational packets should present parents with the tools for leading a seder which positions the children at the center of an inquisitive process directed by the parents; as their children grow, parents need to be taught how to encourage their children to ask more substantive questions.

Classroom activities can include the opening up of questions, which the students can then bring to their respective seders while their parents can be clued in to the types of questions their children will be asking and workshops offered them to help them formulate appropriate responses or direct further discussion.

In this manner, the dynamic created at the seder table will be a model of oral transmission, and a true reflection of the design established by the Mishnaic sages.

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