Some of these activities need resources, many don’t. They all need imagination, a sense of humour and a desire to find learning in every experience.
- How does the story start?
- Moses the Main Man
- Leadership – Moses the Madrich
- How you can plan a Seder
- Seder Table talk (discussions for Seder)
- Pesach Art
- Pesach Cookery
How does the story start?
The first part of this resource is designed to give the Pesach story a context. Often many young people know the story of Pesach or know some parts of it. There are also many different levels of knowledge in a club setting. Some young people may have a very thorough knowledge of festivals, others may not. Here are some suggestion to give young people as much information about this part of our collective history.
The following section can be used for discussion and drama. It has been set out with key questions and they can be answered in any of the following ways.
Here are some questions you might want to ask in order to give the background story of Pesach:
- WHAT WERE THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL DOING IN EGYPT IN THE FIRST PLACE?
- WHY WERE THEY SLAVES?
- WHO WAS MOSES’S REAL FAMILY?
- WHY WAS MOSES CALLED THE PRINCE OF EGYPT? HOW DID MOSES END UP LIVING IN THE DESERT?
- WHY DID PHARAOH FINALLY ALLOW THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL TO LEAVE EGYPT?
Take these questions & choose one of the following methods…
Write the questions on large sheets and put them around the house. Go around together and read the questions. Discuss your thoughts together.
Write the questions on large sheets and put them around the house. Print (or write) the answers to the questions onto separate sheets of papers. Put those around the house too.
The child/ren needs to match the right question to the right answer.
Follow on with a discussion together.
Have some family members act out the narrative as a story and perform for others. For houses with 2 people, be both the performers and the audience in turn.
WHAT WERE THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL DOING IN EGYPT IN THE FIRST PLACE?
At the end of the book of Genesis (Bereshit) Joseph was living in Egypt. There was a desperate famine in the land of Israel and so all his brothers and their extended families decided to head for Egypt and try and live there for a while until things were easier in Israel. They didn’t intend to stay and settle in Egypt forever. But they did well, built homes and the extended family grew and grew….
WHY WERE THEY SLAVES?
Initially, they weren’t slaves. The Children of Israel were given land to work on by Pharaoh because of Joseph’s help to the infra-structure in Egypt. As time went on, and another generation was born, the Children of Israel became rich and powerful and the next Pharaoh on the throne felt threatened by their sheer numbers. So he changed the law. He took away their rights as free men and ordered the children of Israel to work as slaves. He made their lives very difficult, taxed them heavily and limited the types of work they could do.
The next Pharaoh, the newest King/political leader, then decided that all the hard labour stuff wasn’t enough, the Israelites seemed to be toughening up quite well since they were still having kids and coping with the pressure they were under. So, that Pharaoh made yet another law: Every son that is born you shall cast into the River, and every daughter you shall save alive (Exodus 1:22)
So let’s meet…
Moses the Main Man
WHO WAS MOSES’ ‘REAL’ FAMILY?
Little is known about Moses’ family background. His father, Amram, is only mentioned as being from the tribe of Levi. But the book of Exodus tells us that Moses’ mother, placed him in a woven basket and sent him off down the River Nile with the hope that he could be saved from Pharaoh’s decree.
We also know that Moses had an older brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam. Miriam was sent to follow the basket, which she did. Miriam watched as Pharaoh’s daughter saw the basket float up the River Nile and take the baby out.
Pharaoh’s daughter felt sorry for the crying baby she had found and Miriam approached her and recommended the baby have a wet nurse, who was actually his natural mother). Pharaoh’s daughter agreed and said the baby should be fed by his Hebrew mother until he was old enough to be weaned. When the baby grew, he was returned to Pharaoh’s daughter and she raised him as her own son.
WHY WAS MOSES CALLED THE PRINCE OF EGYPT?
Moses was brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter in the Egyptian Palace. Moses must have had a privileged life, a good education, the best types of food and a luxurious place to live. Egypt was an advanced and wealthy country. It was a fertile land and it was sophisticated in its religious and cultural practice.
The Egyptians had a good standard of living, and the Hebrews were the slaves that enabled them to live it to the full. The Hebrews probably lived in shanty towns on the outskirts of the main cities. They had their own customs and traditions and were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 2:22)
HOW DID MOSES END UP LIVING IN THE DESERT?
Moses was ashamed of the way the Egyptians treated the Hebrews. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and he struck out and killed the Egyptian. After this violent incident, Moses ran away from Egypt. He met with the Medianites, a desert dwelling group of nomads. There he met and married Zippora, a Medianite woman. As time went on, Moses was content living in the desert with the Medianite tribe, and working as a shepherd. One of his sheep went off in the wrong direction and Moses went to bring it back to the flock. It was then that we are told that God spoke to Moses saying:
I have seen how oppressed the Children of Israel are by Pharaoh and I will send you to Pharaoh so that you may bring the Israelites out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:10)
DID MOSES THINK HE WAS UP FOR THE JOB?
To put it simply, no. Moses began his first of many arguments with God. Moses couldn’t understand why God has chosen him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He is certainly not thrilled at the prospect of facing Pharaoh again. Moses also doubts he will have much luck in convincing the Israelites to follow him. Moses also points out to God that
I am not an eloquent man. I am slow of speech and slow of tongue… (Exodus 4:11)
God began to get impatient with Moses and replied that Moses was clearly up for the job of leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses continued to have his doubts.
HOW DID MOSES GAIN THE ISRAELITES CONFIDENCE?
Moses’ brother, Aaron, and the Israelite Elders all supported Moses. They thought it was a good idea that he approach Pharaoh and ask for the Israelites freedom.
And then Pharaoh said no. And Moses said please let my people go.
And again Pharaoh said no. So God sent 10 plagues, one by one, getting nastier and nastier until Pharaoh said yes, leave now!
Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years. He received the 10 commandments at Sinai and then continues to lead the people to the brink of the Promised Land.
The next part of this resource looks at leadership. Pesach has some fantastic examples of leadership and the difficulties it can bring. Moses is often spoken about as the greatest leader of the Jewish people. However, Moses had to deal with many challenging situations.
This might be a good opportunity to discuss leadership and the different types of challenges people face.
Here are some key points you could use in a discussion about the way Moses reacted as a leader.
- Did Moses feel part of the Egyptian people?
- Did Moses feel part of the Children of Israel?
- Did his ability to connect to his own group influence his leadership role?
- Do you feel part of your community? Where or what is your community? Does this effect you as a leader?
Moses knew that one of his challenges was public speaking. He worked closely with his brother Aaron, who was an eloquent speaker, and at times asked Aaron to speak on his behalf.
- Was this a good leadership technique?
- What are your challenges we are facing in our lives right now? How are we managing those challenges every day?
Moses knew that to be a truly effective leader, he needed to work with others. He needed to delegate and take advice. There are many examples throughout the story of Exodus about how Moses did this. He asked his brother, Aaron, to speak on his behalf, since he found speaking, particularly in public, to be traumatic. Moses also relied heavily on his sister, Miriam. She is often referred to as a healer and was clearly a highly sensitive person. Moses included her into his team and utilised her skills. Later, we read that Moses turned to Jethro, his father in law, for advice since Moses realised that he was exhausted and needed to learn the art of delegation.
Jethro gave him good advice and Moses followed it. Even though Moses could have said at any time that he had been directly chosen by God, and thus he knew everything he needed to know, we learn that Moses was a humble leader. He led his team as a part of the team.
In our homes, this Pesach, we need to find ways to live and work together which are different to how we have lived before.
What tasks are being done in different ways?
Who is doing something they have never down before?
THE HAGADAH – THE STORY BOOK
By reading through the Hagadah, we read the story of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt. The story begins with Moses asking Pharaoh for freedom for his people and takes us through the experiences in Egypt until the Israelites left their homes and began to wander through the wilderness.
The story never really ends! It leads us through to the idea of returning to the Promised Land. The Seder is a time for asking questions.
There is also a need for each person present to feel a connection to their Jewish past.
CHOOSING A HAGADAH
Next, find a Hagadah which you feel comfortable in using. There are many online Hagadot you can find.
PREPARING FOR YOUR SEDER
The Seder has five essential parts. They are:
1. DRINK THE FIRST CUP OF WINE
Welcome to the Seder (Kedesh) which is when we sanctify the holiday with some initial songs. We drink our first cup of wine (or grape juice) here.
2. DRINK THE SECOND CUP OF WINE
The story (Maggid) This main chunk is when we tell the story of how life was for our ancestors, we ask questions, we eat symbolic foods to make us feel more involved in the story and we sing songs of freedom and liberation. We drink our second cup of wine here.
3. DRINK THE THIRD CUP OF WINE
Dinner time! We always begin our Seder meal with matza and moror (bitter herbs). Then we eat a meal. We drink our third cup of wine here.
4. WELCOME ELIJAH
After dinner an extra cup of wine is poured in honor of Elijah and the door is opened to welcome him. The reason we welcome in Elijah is as follows:- Elijah represents the coming of the Messiah, the ultimate hope for world redemption. By welcoming Elijah to our Seder, we are acknowledging that we are still waiting for the Messiah
5. DRINK THE FOURTH CUP OF WINE
The last part of Seder is when we say Hallel, which is when we say thanks. Even in challenging times, it is so important for us to think about what we are thankful for every day.
The idea behind Seder table talk is that during the story telling or Maggid part of the Seder, you bring in different ideas to discuss. Seder is a time for asking questions. Take time at your Seder to discuss issues which are relevant to the Pesach story and to us today.
FREEDOM AND OPPRESSION
The Israelites are finally given their freedom – but at a price. They had to leave their homes immediately without even having enough time to bake bread for the journey ahead.
How are we free today? How are we oppressed?
ALL WHO ARE HUNGRY COME AND EAT
At the beginning of the Seder service we are asked to invite the poor to come and eat with us. Pesach is a festival which is community based and we are reminded of our responsibilities to bring in those who are less fortunate. There are many people who are volunteering and helping others this year.
Discuss some or any of the following points:
- How does Judaism continue to make us aware of our communal responsibility?
- How did Moses deal with such a large group of people through the wilderness for 40 years?
- If leaving Egypt and going on that journey had been a family event that your family were taking part in, how would you have organised yourselves?
WHAT HAS KEPT THE JEWISH PEOPLE TOGETHER?
The Israelites left Egypt and travelled through the wilderness. After 40 years of nomadic living, they settled in Israel. From that time until today the Jewish people have stayed unified. There have been times throughout Jewish history where other people have attempted to destroy the Jewish people, but have always failed. There are also many questions being asked of us today regarding our feelings about the continuity of Judaism.
- What do you think has kept the Jewish people together?
- Do we have a distinct identity as Jewish people?
- At Pesach, do you relate to the story? Does it feel as if YOU were part of the group leaving Egypt? Is it important that we are connected to the Pesach story?
At each family Seder, there is always a memory of Seders past! This activity can be used as an introduction to your Seder.
I remember the Seder that my Auntie Jackie dipped the parsley in the salt water and then (for some reason still unexplained) began to throw it at various family members.. Every year we laugh about it, every year Auntie Jackie makes a stab at explaining why she did it. Each wine stain on the Hagadah remains as a memory of which cousin spilt it there (in a bid to kick another cousin under the table or in a vain attempt to make a grab for more choroset…)
Take time in your Seder for people to share a memory but more importantly, make a memory for next year, look back on it, year after year..
All of the following activities can be done prior to Seder night or during chol hamoed (non-festival days). Decide what looks like fun and make it happen!
Have a selection of costumes available around the room. Have people put them on for different parts of the story. The costumes could be large pieces of material and children (perhaps with adult help) may choose to create costumes for seder.
At the beginning of the story, we read how hard the Israelites worked. As you read that first section, stop the story telling and set the Children of Israel to work by having them build their own pyramid, during the Seder.
Build a pyramid out of the empty packets or boxes which you have already collected). When they have completed the pyramid have them come back to the table and continue telling the Pesach story with the pyramid towering near you..
Music is a fabulous way of setting a scene.
Have a listen to any of the following songs on your favourite platform.
- Let my people go – Louis Armstrong
- Walk like an Egyptian – The Bangles
- The Israelites – Desmond Decca
- Redemption Song – Bob Marley
Listen and discuss!
You could listen to the songs and then have a brief discussion about the song.
Pesach is a wonderful time for creating dramatic pieces of artwork. If you decide to make a communal Seder, try your hand at some flower arranging and centre pieces for the Seder table.
BIG WALL ART
You could also decorate a room by making a huge wall mural depicting a scene from the Hagadah (maybe the Red Sea parting, or the Children of Israel working in Egypt). Paints, crayons, felt tips – anything you have can create a beautiful piece of artwork.
If you have any sand about… Make a pyramid out of card. Stick it onto a large sheet of card. This is your base. Cover it all in glue. All of it – don’t miss a bit! Sprinkle sand all over the pyramid & base. Leave to dry and then shake it off. You can then add some little people (play mobile or Lego people are just perfect) who can be dressed in appropriate ‘desert travelling’ clothes, to walk across your wilderness, away from the pyramid and towards freedom.
Find a picture of a Pharaoh. Illustrate onto card and decorate using yellow, blue and gold paint or any colours you fancy. You might want to add a golden goatee type beard on the chin (silver or gold foil can be easily shaped for this). Once it has dried, you could make facemasks of the other main characters in the Pesach story (Moses, Miriam, Aaron) and you could act out the story too.
TABLE CLOTH ART
Use a bed sheet (a light coloured one is best) or you could also decorate a vast tablecloth by drawing scenes from the Pesach story with fabric pens or fabric paints. Felt tips would work too if you don’t have fabric paints. This can be used as your tablecloth for your Seder. Alternatively, you could make it as a festive wall hanging.
If you have glass or enamel paints, you can decorate and make a Seder plate. Have think of a design which represents Pesach to them. Look back at our discussion points for this. They may want to design a plate which incorporates the idea of ‘freedom’ (from slavery, for women etc) They may choose a design which shows scenes of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt.
This year, you may need to be creative in what you can cook. Here are some suggestions.
Every kosher cookbook has a Pesach section. The delightful snacks of cinnamon balls and coconut pyramids is something that everyone looks forward to year after year. In fact, it often tastes like the biscuits have been around for all those years too… maybe that’s just the way I bake them.
There are many ways of making choroset. Different Jewish communities have developed choroset recipes using a wide variety of fruits. This is one of the best I have found. It is a fun recipe to make, roll your sleeves up and dig your hands in!
You will need:
- 6 apples
- Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
- Half a cup sweet red wine
- Half a teaspoon of lemon juice
- Brown sugar
- Ground almonds
- Grate the apples into a mixing bowl.
- Add the cinnamon, lemon, and red wine. Taste the mixture.
- Add in enough ground almond to bind the mixture together.
- Mix it altogether with your hands.
- Add brown sugar to taste (if required).
- Mix that in too.
B’tay’avon! Bon apetite!
Take a sheet of matza and make it damp. Put it in a baking dish. Add one sheet at a time of damp matza until you have six or seven sheets. Squash it down and drain out as much of the water as you can. Beat an egg and pour it over the matza. Bake in a medium over until the egg is set. Then add the toppings of your choice.
You might want to go for a Pharaoh Phavourite (Gouda cheese, tomato (paste, ketchup or fresh tomatoes) sliced red pepper. Return to the oven until the cheese has melted and enjoy!
Wishing you a good Pesach