ABOUT THE "TALKING HAGGADAH"
The Survival Kit
Family Haggadah contains two texts of the
Haggadah. One text is the traditional he brew text. If you can
read and understand Hebrew, that's great, by all means use the Hebrew.
Tonight however, since most people are far more comfortable with
English than Hebrew, The Survival Kit Family Haggadah will use the
Talking Haggadah translation as its primary text.
Haggadah translation is not a literal translation
of the Haggadah. The Talking Haggadah is a unique translation that
adheres very closely to the meaning of the original text, but at the
same time, incorporates background information, clarifications and
explanations into the text itself. It also uses words and language
that are more like the way most people talk today. You won't find any
"Thees" or "Thous" in this Haggadah.
The goal of the Talking Haggadah translation is to make an
often cumbersome text easy to read and understand. In addition to the
translation, Ira Matzahbrei will provide further clarification of the
Haggadah where he feels it is necessary.
THE PASSOVER SURVIVAL KIT
The Survival Kit Family Haggadah has a companion volume
called, The Passover Survival Kit. Throughout The Survival Kit
Family Haggadah, you will find a symbol. This is used to
indicate that if you want to find out more about what is taking place
at that particular point in the seder, then all you have to do is look
in the Passover Survival Kit on the page that appears in the box.
SOME FUN IDEAS
Passover is for kids!
There is an ancient
custom to spread nuts on the seder table
before the seder begins. And what is the deep, hidden meaning behind
this custom? Simply, to arouse the curiosity of the children at the
There is also the well known, time honored custom of hiding
the afikomen and letting the children hunt for it. Again, another
custom designed to keep children involved in the seder.
following list contains a number of ideas that will help
to stimulate the involvement of children at the seder.
1) For a couple of weeks before Passover, try reading
Passover stories with your kids at night. It is also a good idea to
find a book about Passover which can be read at the dinner table every
night as Passover approaches.
1a) Based on what you have read with
your children, you
can now ask questions at the seder that they will be able to
answer. This excites them, makes them feel good about themselves, and
is a wonderful source of nachas for the grandparents. You can have
little prizes to give out for correct answers. After a while, you will
see that the adults will want prizes too. Go ahead, it's part of the
fun. Caution: Be sensitive to the children of guests. Find ways to
include them too.
1b) In case you didn't have a chance to do this before
Passover, we have included a section that appears intermittently
throughout the Haggadah called, Fun Facts. This section contains
questions about Passover, the story of the Jews in Egypt, and about
some of the basics of Judaism. This section provides a great way for
everyone, adults included, to learn a lot of important information
that is relevant to Passover.
The leader of the seder can ask the
questions as they appear in the Haggadah and give prizes, candy or
other treats for every correct answer. Also, every time someone gets a
correct answer they can be given a nut or a toothpick. Whoever has the
most nuts at the end of the seder wins a grand prize.
1c) Good questions deserve just as much recognition as good answers.
Anytime someone asks a good question about the Haggadah or the seder,
they should be rewarded and encouraged to keep up the good work.
A short skit. Write a short skit about the exodus from Egypt.
Characters can include Moses, Pharaoh, God, a firstborn Egyptian, a
Jewish slave, an Egyptian taskmaster, a frog, etc. Short written
scripts can be given to each child (adults too if they want). Give the
kids your full attention-remember; tonight they are the stars of the
3) Find the patterns. The number four is significant on
Passover and there are numerous instances of things appearing in
groupings and patterns of four throughout the Haggadah. Every time
someone notices a pattern of four, give them a toothpick. The one with
the most toothpicks at the end of the seder gets a prize. Try to find
a way to make everyone a winner-we certainly don't want anyone to feel
like a loser on Passover.
4) Prizes galore. Jewish bookstores carry a variety of colorful
Passover items for kids. These can be a lot of fun when incorporated
into the seder as prizes for asking or answering a question, noticing
a pattern, or reading a paragraph in the Haggadah. They can also be
used to keep the children excited about fulfilling the mitzvot at the
seder. When they eat matzah, they get a stuffed matzah ball, for maror
they get a Passover story book, and so on. (Sammy loves getting prizes
at the seder.)
5) The ten plagues. The ten plagues provide a great opportunity to do
all sorts of great stuff at the seder. Long before Passover, you can
start a collection of visual aids for the ten plagues. Some examples:
Blood - Wrap red cellophane paper around a glass. When you
pour water into the glass, you suddenly have a glass of Blood.
Pour water from the glass into a clear cup, and the water is
now crystal clear. This is exactly what happened in Egypt; the
same water that was bloody in the glass of an Egyptian, was
clear and drinkable for a Jew.
Frogs & Locusts - There are a wide variety
of frogs and locusts available at the nature store in your
local shopping mall.
Hail - Ping pong balls make for great hail.
animals- You can buy all sorts of plastic animals and toss them out on
the table. You can also buy masks and become an animal, or you can
have different kids (and adults too) play the part of a particular
Pestilence - Just turn your plastic animals on their backs
Darkness - Pass out dark sunglasses to everyone
at the seder.
There are only two rules when it comes to the ten
plagues: Be creative, and have lots of fun!
A COMMENT ABOUT THE COMMENTARY
The goal of The Survival Kit Family Haggadah commentary
is to enable people to discover, within the text of the Haggadah,
ideas, inspirations and insights that relate to life as it is lived
every day. The Haggadah not only chronicles the historical birth of
the Jewish nation, but it also contains seminal ideas that are basic
to a Jewish understanding of life in general, Jewish life in
particular and most particularly, the issue of freedom in our lives.
Passover is known as Z'man Cheyrutaynu, The Season of
Freedom. The themes of national, personal, spiritual and
emotional freedom are all woven together in the text of the
Haggadah. The commentary in this Haggadah is an attempt to reveal some
of those themes.
The commentary is divided into two parts: Questions
& Answers, and Mini-Essays. The Question & Answer portion of the
commentary tries to anticipate questions about the Haggadah text, and
then present insightful answers. The children of the Haggadah; the
wise child, the rebellious child and the simple child, each pose
questions from their particular perspective. The Mini-Essays come in
two forms: Those that are written especially for children (Rebecca is
usually in charge of these), and others that are on a more adult level
(Miriam Matzahbrei will often present these).
It is important to keep in mind that one need not read the
entire commentary during the seder. As a matter of fact, you
can skip the whole thing if you want and just stick to the
basic text of the Haggadah. The commentary is intended to
enhance your experience of the seder. It can be read at the
seder, in full or in part, or it can be read either before
Passover in preparation for the seder, or sometime after the
seder as a way to reflect more deeply on what you have
Relax and Enjoy
The Passover Seder is not supposed to be a race, a test of
endurance or a Jewish tribal right of passage. The seder is
meant to be an enjoyable and enlightening experience where
families and friends celebrate their Jewish identity; attempt
to understand that identity a little better, and try to
communicate the richness of Jewish life to the next
Again: THIS IS NOT A TEST.
The ideal environment for a seder is one where people are
comfortable and relaxed, where people feel free to participate
or not, where no question is too simple and where everyone
feels that they can learn, share and grow together.
So remember: Relax, take your time, learn, enjoy, grow and
enjoy your seder; your celebration of being a part of the
And if things don't go exactly the way you hoped they would,
hey, that's okay; because there is always next year in