The Torah intended for the Sedorim to be children oriented. The Torah repeatedly speaks of a dialogue between the children and parents. The Hagaddah is also geared towards raising the children’s curiosity, prompting them to ask questions and having the parents respond to those questions. Pesach is all about informal Chinuch (education).
Many parents look forward to Pesach with a “storybook dream”. The family will all be sitting around, eager to hear the father say the Haggadah. Insightful questions will be asked. Answers will be knowledgeable and gleaned from a wide source of commentaries. The singing will be beautiful, the meal enjoyable, and everyone will act on cue.
To achieve the above will require the planning a number of steps. Some of them are logistical; others are attitudinal. These include:
1) As difficult as it may be, the Sedorim should begin as early as possible. In our home, the Haggadahs and pillows are set before we leave for Mincha. The Sedorim begin about 15 minutes after we come home.
2) We also Daven at a Minyan that’s “faster” than many others. These two “tricks” help us begin the Sedorim, usually, more than an hour earlier than do many of our friends. People should be reminded that the success of the Sedorim is not how late they are finished, but how long the Sedorim took and, more importantly, how much of that time was spent constructively.
3) In homes with young children, the parents generally know how long the children can sit together without arguing. It’s a fair assumption that during the Sedorim, the peaceful interactions will probably last longer than usual; but eventually they will end. Parents should plan the length of the Sedorim according to their children’s ability to stay captivated by the events that take place. Since our Chachomim (Rabbis) have geared the Sedorim to be a Chinuch tool, parents should make sure that their children experience as much of the Sedorim as possible. It would be a shame for the children to tire during the Sedorim because of the lateness of the hour, and miss the underlying goals of the night.
4) Even if the Sedorim have been planned perfectly, parents shouldn’t assume that all of their children will react to them in the same manner. The Sedorim should be a joint effort, but not all children are team players. This becomes a particular problem when there’s a large range in the children’s ages. One child may be in H.S. and is beginning to take the Sedorim more seriously, while the siblings may be in elementary school and are looking to have fun. This type of situation is normal, and may have to be dealt with by compromising. The younger children should walk around a little during the longer D’vrei (words of) Torah, (nosh is not only acceptable during the Sedorim, but should be promoted), and the older children should not say their third D’var Torah on the same sentence. They should save it for later in the meal, or during the lunch meal.
1) I strongly suggest that the D’vrei Torah focus on practical, simple, concepts, that have universal meaning for all the children and parents. It’s frustrating to listen to someone speak for five minutes, while some of the other family members feel left out, and tune out.
2) Parents should also remember that the Sedorim are not the time to instill values in children. They’re a time to expose them to values. If your children aren’t motivated, don’t make motivation the night’s goal. Instead, let those children walk around a little, and participate less than you would’ve liked.
3) The most important message to consider is that the Sedorim nights are not the time to expect children to “play the part”. Children are by nature happy, playful (in a healthy way), and inquisitive. These are three positive traits. These three traits also frustrate people who are nervous, stressed, and distracted. For such people happiness, playfulness, and inquisitiveness, is irritating and, often, infuriating. Children become “trained” to avoid their parents and play in their rooms. They are told to read something and stop making noise. They are told to find a friend or something to do. During the entire year, the parents push their children out of the room and tell them, “not now”, whenever their children want to spend time with them.
The question then becomes how can parents expect their children to “turn themselves on” when the parents have been “turning them off” for the entire year? This frustrates parents (usually the fathers).
In addition, parents usually look forward to the Sedorim with a slightly self serving, usually subconscious, interest. They want to “feel good” about the Sedorim. Having this attitude, combined with the fact that children will find it difficult to contribute, because of the relationship built over the past year, many Sedorim become a tense time, sometimes even with bouts of screaming.
Even if the Sedorim aren’t as stressful as I’ve just described, they often end up like many other family interactions. Parents may feel that noise, giggling, or a loud yawn, is a distraction that takes away from the evening’s presentations. This “snowballs” into a disjointed, unpleasant, experience for everyone.
I’ve found that the success of the Sedorim will be as successful as the parents – childrens relationship was all year. It is during the Sedorim that parents will realize how effective or ineffective they’ve been at parenting all year.
Although parents hope that the Sedorim will work out perfectly, keep in mind that they’re also supposed to be fun, relaxing, and something in which the children will enjoy participating. Parents should do their best to find a happy, effective, and enjoyable, medium.
The Sedorim are a time when many families have guests. Remember to treat your children as guests. Last but not least remember your spouses. They’ve a right to be tired and appreciated. Show it to them.
Rabbi Shmuel Gluck is director of Areivim, a teen crisis intervention center. R. Gluck’s articles are widely published in the Torah Chinuch world. For previous articles or for speaking engagements you can contact R. Gluck at Areivim: www.areivim.com 845-371-2760 E-mail: [email protected].
(Rabbi Shmuel Gluck – YWN)