The Passover meal is a celebratory dinner full of rich symbolism and history, and is designed to engage the entire family. Prayers are sung, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is told, and everything is done in a special order, year after year, for deeply symbolic reasons. Involving children in the music and the preparation of Passover foods are the best ways to teach them about the Passover meal.
The Four Questions
“Why is tonight different from all other nights?” is the beginning of the four questions that the youngest child asks at the seder, or Passover meal, usually on the first night of Passover. There are four questions and answers that are sung in Hebrew. The questions help educate children about what happens at the Passover meal.
Teachers who do not speak Hebrew may use both transliterations and translations to teach young children about the Passover meal via traditional song. In English, the four questions and answers are: 1) On other nights, we may eat bread and matzo. Tonight, only matzo? Answer: We eat only matzo tonight because we had to flee Egypt quickly with unleavened bread. 2) On other nights, we may eat any vegetables. Tonight, only bitter vegetables? Answer: The bitterness reminds us of the bitterness of slavery. 3) On other nights, we do not dip our food.
Tonight, we dip twice? Answer: The salt water in which we dip our food tonight represents our tears. 4) On all other nights, we eat sitting or reclining.
Tonight, we must recline? Answer: Only free people recline. Tonight, we recline to celebrate our freedom. These four questions may be rehearsed before Passover, then sung at the Passover meal on the first night of Passover.
The Ten Plagues are an important focus of the Passover meal, with the paschal lamb being one of the main symbols of Passover. Young children may learn all of the plagues with puppets or toys. In order, the ten plagues are: blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, death of animals, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and death of firstborn. Blood may be depicted with red tissue paper and darkness with black construction paper. Ping pong balls make great hail symbols.
The others are easily depicted with toys or animals, including death of the first born, which is symbolized for children with a lamb. This is because the Jews in Egypt were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and mark their doors with it’s blood. The Angel of Death knew to pass over the Jewish doors and not take the lives of their firstborns.
Eating matzo is a necessary mitzvah during the Passover meal. Whether you are teaching in a classroom or celebrating the Passover meal with young children at the table, you must eat some matzo. Young children enjoy making matzo; it is a simple act of mixing flour and water. The adult must bake the flat bread in a hot oven for exactly 18 minutes. Then allow the children to eat some after it cools.
Young children may help put together the seder plate which holds six symbols of the Passover meal. The roasted bone, or z-ro-ah, reminds us of the meat offering brought to the priests before Passover during the days of the Temple. A roasted egg, be-itz-ah, represents the other offering. Maror are the bitter herbs on the seder plate that remind Jews of the bitterness of slavery.
Two kinds of bitter herbs are placed on the seder plate, usually horseradish and romaine lettuce. Karpas is a vegetable or boiled potato which is dipped in salt water that represents tears. Charoset is a mixture of grated apples, nuts and wine. It represents mortar to make bricks, as the Jewish slaves in Egypt were forced to do. Children who help prepare the seder plate and discuss what they are doing with their teachers learn about the Passover meal.