by Rabbi Michael Cohen
The seder is one of Judaism’s most observed rituals. Instead of reciting a truncated version of the seder that most of our students will be experiencing at home, we turned the model seder into a series of experiential activities that allowed our students to better understand the meaning behind the rituals of the seder. You can see photos from the event below; it’s a great example of how our Hebrew School uses experiential education to give our students a deeper understanding of Judaism and have fun in the process.
Program Opening – Making Matza
The program opened in the middle of the room where there were rows of tables. Each table had flour, water, forks, rolling pins (little ones), mixing spoons, and a baking tray with parchment paper on it. The students had 18 minutes to make their matzas, put them on the tray, and have the helpers get the tray to the oven.
The rest of the program was each class visiting a different station where they experienced a different stage of the seder. Each grade had about 5 minutes at the station before they had to move on to the next one.
This station had grape juice, cups, and a metal chime. The person at the station explained to the group that we use the blessing we say over grape juice or wine as a way of creating a new moment separate from the one that came before. We demonstrate that by listening to the chime before we say “borei prei hagafen” and drinking the grape juice.
Here students washed their hands without a blessing in a small area separated out by a divider with a picture of a room that is upside down. The teacher asked students if they notice anything strange or unusual. (The answer is that the picture of the room is upside down). We wash our hands without a blessing for the same reason that we hung the picture upside down – to do something strange to get people to ask questions. The seder is about asking questions and this is a way for us to break the ice and start. They then washed their hands without a blessing. ( You can see the station below in the background)
The purpose of karpas is to remind us of the rebirth and renewal of life that comes with spring. This station was full of flowers and other fragrant plants as well as parsley and salt water. Students got the chance to go from plant to plant and say the various blessings we say over smelling different things and then the group will dip the parsley in the salt water and say the blessing (borei prei ha’adama).
Yachatz – (No station – next year!)
Students worked their way through the Passover story in three parts.
Stop 1: Slavery – They had to build a pyramid out of boxes and then someone with a Pharaoh hat knocked it down and told them to start over. The teacher explained that the Egyptians were intentionally mean to the Jews, not just having them do work but making it harder work than necessary.
Stop 2: 10 Plagues – This stop was like “Simon Says,” but with the plagues. The twist was that here the teacher will said the Hebrew name of the plague and it was “Moses Says”.
דָּם ( blood – have them make a throw-up face),
צְפַרְדֵּעַ (frogs – have them jump like a frog),
כִּנִּים (lice – have them scratch their heads ),
עָרוֹב (wild beasts – have them roar like lions),
דֶּבֶר ( cattle disease – have them make a choking noise and grab their necks),
שְׁחִין (boils – have them scratch their arms),
בָּרָד (hail– have them look up at the sky and say “Ah!!!!!”),
אַרְבֶּה ( locusts– have them make a buzzing noises and flap their arms)
חֹשֶׁךְ (darkness – have them close their eyes and say “I can’t see! I can’t see),
מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת (death of the first born – have them gently fall to the ground)
Stop 3: Crossing the Reed Sea. There was a blue tarp that the kids have to cross with plenty of tropical decorations. Adults squirted water at them from little sea creature water guns as they passed. Afterward, everyone sang “Mi Kamocha” in celebration!
Rachtza, Motzei Matza, Maror, Korech, Shulchan Orech and Barech
All of these were condensed to the last ten minutes of the program when students got to eat their freshly baked matza along with harotzet and maror in the Hillel sandwich. We moved it to the end in order to give the matza time to bake and cool.
Using some photoshopping, we added a tiny afikoman for kids to find in 15 different picture puzzles.
At this station, Cantor Roytman sang Hallel songs with our students.
At this part of the seder we sing “B’shana Ha’ba’ah B’Yerushalim” – “Next Year in Jerusalem!” At this station students wrote down where they hoped to be next year, not only geographically but in terms of personal growth and development.