Monday, April 4, 2016

Setting the seder table

Aside from being a wonderful image of a seder table, what else does this inspire? And how do we make this work in practical terms?

Ever since friends gave us a bag of plagues (small plush representations of the 10 plagues), we’ve set those out for each person to have one at the start of the seder. When the time comes to read the list of plagues, each person with that plague (and we’ve learned it helps to pass them out in order in case you can’t tell the difference between the plush cattle disease and the plush wild beasts) lifts up that plague, or throws that plague at an image of Pharaoh on the couch. This does something to make more concrete the idea of a series of plagues. Throwing the plagues at Pharaoh is satisfying, but also a bit dangerous with all the wineglasses around. Perhaps a tall glass cylinder vase that the plagues get stacked into? Yes, with a Pharaoh at the bottom that the plagues are all piling on top of.

Were the plagues against Pharaoh or against the Egyptians? That’s a huge discussion, and an important one to have. There are issues of how nations can be led, how people are judged for the behavior of their leaders and how they might try to exercise influence or control over their leaders, the appropriateness of collective punishment, etc. Whenever you choose an illustration, you risk reducing ambiguity and imagination. Perhaps a two-sided plush showing Pharaoh on one side and Egypt on the other? The summative nature of the series of plagues works in either case, and the clear glass borders of the cylinder vase emphasize that the plagues were specific in their application to the Egyptians and yet meant to be seen as a lesson to other nations.

What else can we have props for on the seder table? A burning bush candle? Baby Moses in a small reed basket on wheels that we send down the Blutrack Nile? A motorized lazy susan to represent wandering lost in the desert? Or along those lines, perhaps some figures hanging off the ceiling fan blades with a sign pointing North and a question mark as the ceiling fan slowly turns? Surely some of these might spark more conversation than why there’s an egg (or an orange) on the seder plate.