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Is it proper to have a shorter Seder so guests will not have to struggle to stay awake or is it better to have a longer Seder filled with divrei Torah that ends very late? What about when young children are involved?



From the combination of the Babylonian Talmud (Pesachim 116a) and the Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 10:4) Chazal set forth the basic text of our Haggadah – the mitzvah to recount the events of our departure from Egyptian bondage through the hand of G-d. This is the age-old text that we utilize to re-imagine how a small family was transformed into the Israelite nation.

There are numerous reasons for drowsiness at the Seder. First and foremost are the unending last minute preparations on the eve of the festival; second the amount of wine that is consumed; and third – especially for the little ones – the lateness of the hour.

Now, the vast amount of commentary that has developed through the centuries provide one and all with an enhanced manner of retelling the story and learning many halachos related to Pesach and the Seder. But for the sake of keeping to the practicable, the text itself as set forth by our sages could suffice (even lechatchila) to discharge the mitzvah.

Some go through the entire Seder partaking of all the traditional foods, drinking the four kosos – cups of wine – and at its conclusion attend to the deeper discussions of the commentaries and this might be a possible alternative to prolonging the Seder.

The objective of the Seder is to reflect, but the festival is a period of joy. What joy is it if one is too tired to reflect and too tired to enjoy.

– Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.

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Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

I have often marveled at people who measure a Seder (or for that matter, the Rosh Hashana davening) by its length. “We finished at 11:00 p.m. … at midnight … at 3:30 a.m.,” as if time is the essence and the substance ancillary.

The fundamental mitzvah of the Seder is to transmit the narrative of the Exodus to our children, the background, the story, and above all the implications for today. It is to convey to them the grandeur of the night on which we became Hashem’s eternal and chosen people. How that is done varies with every family – but that is what must be done.

Thus, the length of the Seder should be organic, not forced, and depend on the lateness of the hour and the effects of the wine. I have not seen the value in having children read rote divrei Torah that they copied in school without fully understanding what they are reading.

Every family strikes it own balance but there are certain prerequisites. Each child, on his/her own level, must be informed of the events of this majestic night, and the purpose of the maror, matzah and the wine. All guests should ponder the implications of exile and redemption, of enemies rising in every generation to destroy us, and of Hashem’s watchful hand that has preserved us until today.

Often the most meaningful discussions will occur at the meal. Sometimes it is necessary to speak privately to the youngsters who will not remain awake for the meal. But clearly the length should be natural and secondary to the quality of this exalted evening.

– Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is Israel Region Vice-President for the Coalition for Jewish Values and author of Repentance for Life now available from Kodesh Press.

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I remember while my family was in the States the morning after the Seder there was always a contest when people asked, “What time did you finish the Seder last night?” It always seemed to me like a “one-upmanship” contest and the longer the Seder the more frum and greater tzadik you were.

In reality, the length of one’s Seder is predicated on who your participants are. If you know that the people whom you invited would never be able to tolerate a long drawn-out Seder, then you have the obligation to make them feel comfortable and shorten it. On the other hand, if your participants are yeshiva boys or girls, you know that they probably have prepared divrei Torah, so naturally the Seder would be longer. In such a case however, I would limit the divrei Torah to during Maggid so that the people assembled do not starve until the meal, and I would tell the participants that the bulk of the divrei Torah would be said during the meal.

It goes without saying that the main purpose of the Seder is to transmit the story of the Exodus from Egypt – and for that matter our history and our personal family’s history –to our children. Children are the main players at one’s Seder and parents should make sure that they engage their children making them the center of attraction. If children become too tired, then of course shorten the Seder to meet their needs.

A good idea is to have children nap on Erev Pesach so that they could remain awake during the entire Seder.

Parents and leaders of one’s Seder must keep in mind that one does not receive greater reward if they finish their Seder at 3 a.m. We are dealing here with quality not quantity. This is not a contest on whose Seder is longer. Longer doesn’t necessarily mean better. Catering to your participants is more important.

– Rabbi Mordechai Weiss lives in Efrat Israel and previously served as an elementary and high school principal in New Jersey and Connecticut.  He was also the founder and rav of Young Israel of Margate, New Jersey. Contact [email protected].

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