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.