My apologies for my absence last week, Reader. Between a ton of really eg0-driven money wars at work and the beginning of my second retreat with the chillens, I never made it here. I hope your weekend was great, though; mine was, because kids are hilarious and weird and one of them made me a bracelet. (Srsly, it was a moment, which made me super sad because really, it’s a craft project. Not a big deal.)
(But a really big deal!)
So this week has been a continuation of the mess that is fall for me, including but not limited to a minor explosion within my denomination regarding what it is to stray from the Book of Discipline, which of course has overflowed into some of my friendships where we have parallel conversations while not really listening to each other. This is painful, and I’m not ready to bring that here yet, so I’m going to instead point you toward (yet another) book I borrowed from Interpreter.
In my Disciple class (which is basically Bible study on steroids) several weeks ago, we read the Moses narrative. Moses is one of my favorites, but one of the things about the Moses narratives is that it introduces the Big Daddy of festivals, Passover. It’s huge. It’s so huge that it’s the bedrock for one of the main sacraments of the Christian Church as well as being a hinge of the Jewish year. So it’s good to know its story.
I’ve been interested in the Seder (the Passover meal from the outline of the Exodus story) since I read about one in a Christian fiction novel several years ago. But I currently only have one Jewish friend (she’s quite fond of being the token one, actually; most of my friends don’t identify with any religion, really) and I’m not quite sure you can just walk up to your local Temple and start asking about how you make unleavened bread.
So Interpreter loaned me A Children’s Haggadah, and it’s super cool. It’s mostly in English, although each of the pieces of the meal have the Hebrew word (and some of the prayer phrases) alongside. I’m not a huge fan of the typeface for Hebrew; even if I can’t read it, the roundedness of it seems to take some of the impact away, and it looks super futuristic. But then, I memorize fonts, so that’s a me thing. Not all of the Hebrew was obviously connected to its English equivalent, so I would imagine this is written not only for kids but for kids who have adults alongside to guide them through the learning process. The book itself was laid out so that the back cover was the front cover and the pages turned right to left, as if the text were in Hebrew, rather than the Western-language left to right. That was neat, though it took a minute to get used to it.
There were a ton of illustrations (as you expect for kids) and they were super creative, but some of them were downright creepy. They deserve to be looked at closely because the artistry is very detailed, but the close inspection leads you to notice things that feel a little Pan’s Labyrinth. Not sure what kind of kids are picking up a haggadah, but that would have put me off the meal for sure.
My favorite part was that there’s a section of songs with the sheet music at the back (front?). I really appreciate not only that this encourages kids to learn how to read music, but also that it gives folks a better understanding of what the soundtrack is. A lot of books will print song lyrics without the tune, which really isn’t that helpful. But these had the notes, the English, and the Hebrew all in one place. A very good tool indeed.
With my super limited knowledge of seder literature and how the meal is taught to young’uns (which is a huge part of it, the Passover is very much meant as a remembering device that includes the upcoming generations), it’s hard to judge the value/use of this. But as someone who’s read a lot of kids’ books and books in general, I think it’s a good introduction but maybe not the best. It was very neat to read (and fast), and did a level job of explaining each of the seder pieces. If you’re interested in the ritual and want a starting place, this isn’t bad. But seriously. Watch out for the illustrations.