Why is this night different?

Passover is a mere seven days away. As I was thinking about what to write about, I discovered that both Jennifer Shultz at the kiddosphere and Tricia at Miss Rumphius Effect have both blogged about Passover books and have done a fine job. I encourage you to visit their sites for more information.

I do, however, want to tell you about the newest Passover book I received.

The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman. Illustrated by Paul Meisel. © 2010, Holiday House. Ages 4-8. A charming retelling of the classic Little Red Hen story. In this version, Ms. Hen needs to make her matzah for the Seder. She seeks help from her barnyard friends for the planting, harvesting, milling and making of the matzah. Of course, no one has the energy or enthusiasm to assist. However, when it is time for the Seder, everyone needs a place at the table. Can Ms. Hen refuse? Of course not! The illustrations are terrific, bright, colorful and bold, and the use of Yiddish is fun and appropriate throughout this delightful story.

I am happy to be able to remind you that you can now go to my catalog for an annotated list of Passover titles that are currently available. There are quite a number and there is still time to get them before the Holiday.

What more to tell you about, then? How about the ever-evolving process of creating my family’s Haggadah every year, including what I use for inspiration – which is of course, Passover themed books and other Haggadot.

I will start by saying as I did in an earlier blog, that I put all of my “Christmas” energy into Passover. When my children (now 22 and 25 years old) were small, we used the Kar-Ben My Very Own Haggadah, which is still in print and available – only now with a color cover. As I began to take on more Passover responsibilities – more guests, more food preparation, etc. – I needed more information.  I obtained a copy of the Art of Jewish Living Series: Passover, now titled Passover, 2nd edition: The Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration by Dr. Ron Wolfson with Joel Lurie Grishaver. Dr. Wolfson’s view of the Passover Seder as a “drama in four acts,” each act with four scenes and a curtain, was extremely helpful in enabling me to see what was happening during the various Seders I attended and what needed to happen during our Seder.

I also learned from Dr. Wolfson that there were 14 steps to cover during the Seder. Another revelation!  Four Acts – Four Scenes – 14 Steps – This truly was Order! These Seders were not different at all! They were ALL EXACTLY THE SAME just the words were different.  This information has been the foundation on which I have built my family Haggadot over the years. I return to The Art of Jewish Living: Passover every year to make sure I am “sticking to the plan.

Of course, in children’s Haggadot, some “Scenes” may be shortened. Do 2-6 year olds really need to hear about the B’nei B’rak Rabbis?  Do we need to study Torah text with children or can we find more creative, perhaps more dramatic, ways to relate the story of our people’s deliverance from slavery. While wildly popular now, we began tossing plagues around during our Seders in 1988 when my son was 4 years old. I have often wondered if Oriental Trading Company understands the spike in its frog, farm animal and wild beast toy sales during the March-April period.

Over the years, I have collected Haggadot in order to glean from them new ideas to add to our family’s Haggadah. Every year, I would focus on adding or enriching some Act, Scene or Step. Then, a few years ago, I found this incredible website, Jewishfreeware.org. It contains everything I had been looking for to put together my own Haggadah – Hebrew, transliterations, English translations, plus more. Readings, poems, essays, recipes and the most amazing collection of songs I have ever seen.

We now cover all 14 Steps and all Four Acts of the Passover Seder. I will not guarantee that every Scene is present and accounted for. Our Passover Seder table always includes a wide range of ages and faiths. (I think they come for the frogs.) Whatever their reason, we are happy they join us. I want to make sure their experience is warm and welcoming, they feel free to ask questions and are engaged with what is happening.

Now, in addition to our Haggadah, thanks to that fabulous website, we also have a Passover songbook containing songs we have grown to love singing over the years and many that parody popular tunes with Passover related verses. Once we finish our Seder, we often sing into the night.  After all, we have been sure to drink those four cups of wine, so why not sing our favorite tunes. It is far better than karaoke.

At the beginning of our Haggadah, we state (adapted I am sure from somewhere):

“The purpose of this evening is to arouse the attention and curiosity of all who sit at our table… We want them to ask us “Ma Nishtanah? What is going on here? What in the world are you doing? And why?”

If at the end of the evening, we have accomplished that, what more could we ask? Isn’t that what a Seder is all about?

I wish you all a happy and wondrous Passover.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by the publishers cited or are from my personal collection.
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One Response to “Why is this night different?”

  1. Kathy, thank you for linking to my blog! I so appreciate it. I need to order The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah for next year. Looks great. I hope you have a wonderful Passover.

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