Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Pitching the Passover Seder at Shark Tank this month. What would be your angle? And by the way, it’s all on the line. If you succeed, the Passover Seder will be supported and continue. If not, 3300 years of Passover Seders around the globe will come to an end.
Ahhh the Seder…. For some, it projects the imagery of all the family getting together for a genuinely Jewish experience and meal. For others, it’s the longest time EVER between a glass of wine, celery, and a main course.
If you think about it, there are two ways of approaching the Seder: It’s either like going to a gas station or it’s like going to your favorite department store. (Or in my case, my favorite coffee shop). It’s the difference between convenience and connection. To facilitate convenience, the right items need to be made available at times that work for you. To establish lasting connection, there needs to be preparation, consideration, and a positive atmosphere with the aim of wanting the other to want to come once again.
Do you agree? Is it not so much easier, and perhaps for some more habitual, to take the ‘convenience’ route? Although convenience has a place in our lives, it is not to be the cornerstone of our spirituality or the Jewish ritual we observe. Convenience is not a value we wish to impart to our children, as it will neither inspire us, nor our children, to lead meaningful and joyful Jewish lives.
This idea is actually mentioned in the Hagaddah itself. You know that section between mentioning the Four Sons and the ever so coveted finger-dipping ritual? Therein is a handful of Torah verses that highlight us from our origins as a People to our leaving Egypt. Depending on our guests and children at our Seder, our family either reads this section completely in English in 10 minutes, or we dive in and discuss the exegetical interpretations and come up for air a few hours later.
One of the words the Haggadah chooses to explain there is the word amalenu. In the context of the verse in the Torah (Deuteronomy 26:7) it means that G-d heard our toil when we were slaves in Egypt. Our Sages interpret our toil to mean…. Our children.
And ain’t that the case! We toil and labor for our children. As parents, we are their guardians for a relatively short amount of time (although it may not seem so when they are young), and we are charged with enriching their whole selves to embrace goodness, truth and become upstanding Jews as adults.
Raising our children so that they proudly and happily carry the banner of Judaism is anything but convenient. It takes effort and work on our part, as does the tending to anything of importance. It takes humility, an openness to learn, and an acceptance to sacrifice our comfort at times for a greater good.
When I was studying adolescent mental health, one of my mentors shared a truth: When our children enter adolescence, we as parents need to shift from management to sales. And as in sales, we need to be creative and can most effectively offer that in which we are personally invested.
And when it comes to the Passover Seder, we are all like adolescent children. The Seder is the quintessential Jewish educational experience. The time and consideration we take before the Seder to ensure it is meaningful, inclusive and engaging, will fuel us and our children to continue the journey of being proud and practicing Jews.
So this year, let’s sell our Seder! Let’s make it just a bit more of a desirable and meaningful experience by doing some ‘toiling’ in advance and adding insights, games, searches, and questions of our own. In this merit, may we and our children come to the Seder likes it’s an important connection, rather than a convenience.
And The Great Shark Tank Up in the Sky will support us.
RABBI SHMUEL MILLER is the COO of Irvine Hebrew Day School, a motivational speaker and organizational team facilitator.