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.

3 comments:

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?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-gouldwartofsky/liner-notes-for-a-freedom_b_522557.html

shesthesheriff said...

I only attend Rambo or Predator themed Seders.