Sunday, April 4, 2010

Passover and Usability

There are four basic types of seders:

1. The Whole Megillah - The only one you ever heard at your Orthodox Uncle Bob's. They do the entire Haggadah, in Hebrew, with no frills, explanations, or diversions. After a while it turns into Hebraic background noise.

2. The Educational - The focus is on explaining the seder, answering questions, and creating lively discussions. Warning: May run very long.

3. Let's not take this too seriously - We already went through all the effort to do all the cooking and preparing, so let's not get bogged down on details, OK? We might use a Hagaddah (with skipping over the boring parts) or we might just print some stuff off the internet.

4. Show and tell - A rare but rich experience that takes #2 to the next level. Performances, songs, skits and other personal touches for a very unique seder. Common among artists, offbeat Hebrew school educators and Reconstructionist Jews.

So the question is, of course - which is best? And not which is best for you, which obviously is too subjective to answer, but which best to fulfill the key obligations of Passover: To explain the story of the Exodus from Egypt, and to make you feel as if you, personally, were there during these events.

I think this is one example when the tradition-focused Orthodox and their straightforward "let's do it all" method miss the mark. There is nothing experiential at all in a verbatim reading of text. There's no emotional connection in rote rehearsal.

Instead, the offbeat performances and educational to-and-fro have a much better chance of penetrating our busy minds. Passover needs to meet the attendee where HE / SHE is. It needs to rise to the occasion, adapt to the times. It needs to succeed on a usability level. Maybe someone should run national usability tests on Seders and find out which actually work best at creating significant memories and experiences, and run with those.


Zeyev said...

Did you really use the word "megillah" in this discussion? Talk about things out of place!

Please, let's not have usability seminar or some such horrid exercise. I much prefer your idea of individuals/families/groups figuring out what works for them.

I have to admit a certain fondness for a practice close to the first approach - but primarily in English. All of the elements are laid out and in a way that I will understand. Sure, it's long. But there's room for laughter and explanations in the few hours before the meal and the hour or so afterward.

Do you have a preference that you didn't mention?

Zeyev said...

Speaking of the 4 questions . . . did you see this post?

shesthesheriff said...

I only attend Rambo or Predator themed Seders.