THE 3 BIGGEST MISTAKES...
The three biggest mistakes I’ve made hosting A Seder.
As you know, our faith is one of learning.
Preparing for this year’s Pesach I’ve been thinking a lot about my role. How to do it better, what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t.
I have several tasks in the coming week. Some I share only with other Rabbis And some tasks I’d like to share with you and yours. This includes one task in particular: The hosting of our upcoming Seder.
How Seder is hosted matters immensely.
I’ve hosted 47 Seders in 7 different cities (and observed other hosts) and learned a few things along the way.
When we do a great job of hosting Seder -- and perhaps you can relate to this -- our guests remember the experience, possibly indefinitely. For me, this means remembering past mistakes, so as not to repeat them.
Here’s a list of my biggest mistakes I’ve made over the past 47 years of hosting a Seder.
Biggest mistake number #1
The ceremony was too long.
As you know, children are the most important part of the Seder. The four questions - the “Ma Nishtana” -- that every child should ask. That’s the theory…but it just doesn’t work! It was in 1985 in Sydney I hosted a huge Seder for over 50 guests including 27 children. I tried to give each child the chance to ask and to shine…, the ceremony dragged on for four hours! People became fidgety, grew pale, they were starving! Kids were yawning and one almost collapsed on the table out of sheer boredom! I learned that as we are to focus on the children’s experience of the Seder, I should read the rest of the Haggadah quicker and serve the meal within 1 hour after the children have played their role.
Biggest mistake number #2
Not being rested and fully present -- as the host should be.
The Seder host has so much to do it’s easy to burn out. On a few occasions, I’ve worked so hard in the lead up that I’ve had little left to give on the night itself.
Yes, I still greeted every guest at the door upon arrival. Yes, I passed around the Haggadah books before leading the ceremony. However, my spirit, joy and presence were lacking. Deep down, whilst going through the motions, I felt like I wanted to be resting alone.
I’ve learned that it’s absolutely critical for me to have some time to myself in the afternoon before the Seder. To daven to get some rest and maybe just go for a walk or simply meditate. When I do this, I’m so happy and ready to greet my guests. I’m genuinely ready. As the host, our mood ripples out and affects everyone in attendance. As the host we set the tone for the evening.
Biggest mistake #3
Getting the number of guests wrong.
It’s easy to interpret our teachings too literally. We’re told to make room for everyone at our Seder table. On more than one occasion, our dining room has been so packed that it’s been uncomfortable for our guests. Children have been forced to share chairs with adults. People have been trapped in a hallway traffic jam! There’s not enough food to go around.
I’m all for pushing the boundaries and to include extra guests during the Seder. I’ve always done this and always will, but I’ve also learned to respect limitations.
The Seder should be a joyous and memorable occasion for all in attendance. Rather than inviting everyone to my Seder, it’s far wiser for me to live our teaching “Make sure everyone has what they need to celebrate Passover just the same as I do...”
Perhaps this is the most important principle of all.
Afterall, if I’ve learned my lessons, I know that everybody who attends my Seder this year will have a positive experience. But what about the other Jewish people in our community who don’t have what is required to celebrate the festival of Pesach, the festival of freedom. They need our help.
I depend on the generosity of my brothers and sisters to ensure that these needy people have the money to celebrate this year’s Pesach - just as you and I anticipate doing.
There’s three ways you can join with me, to make a difference to the poor and needy this year. It’s very simple.
Assisting 5 families to buy their needs for the Yom Tov of Pesach by making a Tax-Deductible donation of $2225.
Assisting a single mother and her 4 children to obtain their Yom Tov needs by making a Tax-Deductible donation of $520.
Assisting a needy family to buy some of their requirements for Yom Tov by making a Tax-Deductible donation of any amount you wish to make.
You can dedicate your kind donation in memory or in honour of a loved one.
Alternatively, I can supply you with the account details of those who require our assistance, so you assist them directly.
If you’d like to discuss or have any questions in relation to anything above, simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me on 0411759721 anytime.
I wish you a joyous and festive Pesach.
Rabbi Yaakov Lieder
Jewish Family Centre