Reviewing Rav Mitch Heifetz z”l and Michael Toben’s HaKol Baseder Haggadah Kit has brought back memories from my adolesence, time at TVI and various Bnei Akiva functions. I was not particularly close to Rav Mitch z”l, I was a fairly introverted, quite kid in large groups (which is where I met him), but I did admire him.
Rav Mitch was the rav machane (camp rabbi) and quite a presence. His ability to relay a shiur (class), mastery of mime and drama -which he used for fun and educational purposes, and the kumzitz’s he ran, he made his presence known. I am sure there are many others, besides me, who remember him teaching and singing “Vayomer Hashem L’Avraham” and “Olam Haba is a gutte zach“.
In particular, I remember stories he told about balancing his learning at the Telz yeshiva and working in Bnei Akiva, the respectful and loving way he would quote or speak about his wife, Ada, and I can remember particular divrei Torah and shiurim he relayed. Today I spoke to a friend of his from Kibbutz Yavne, who mentioned that whenever he would travel with Rav Mitch, students were always coming up to him with enthusiasm.
I was sad to hear about his untimely passing but happy to hear about this hagaddah, which allows families to benefit from Rav Mitch’s educational techniques. I was pleased to receive a review copy (thank you Bnei Akiva Olami) and reading it was both a visit to the past and useful. The package was coauthored by Michael Toben, Rav Mitch’s longtime chavruta (learning partner.)
The Haggadah comes as a package with five parts- A simple Hagaddah, birkonim, a wine opener, a supplemental book and a supplemental cd. The most important parts of the package are the supplemental guide, aptly named “a treasury of Activities for the Passover Seder,” and the cd. The guide is packed with a wide range of activities to get seder participants involved in the seder. It takes as a given that families celebrating can have a wide range of ages at the seder as well as learning styles. Also, that it might be necessary, at some point, to get some of the participants more actively involved.
For this reason, the guide includes activities appropriate for different ages and labeled for whether they are appropriate for adults, young adults, or children. One useful feature is that the simple hagaddah, which comes with the package, has cross references to the pages in the activity book which would be relevant to wherever you happen to be in the seder. The activity book includes longer activities and shorter activities. Activities to trigger thinking and activities to break things up a bit. There are twenty categories of types of activities including experiential activities, various types of games and quizes and acting/pantomime games. They are not intended to all be used at one seder, and they wouldn’t all be appropriate for your seder. They are intended to supplement how you would normally run your seder and to add new ideas to your repertoire. An appendix provides suggestions of how to use different activities together at a seder and there is also an index by types of activity.
There are alot of activities in the book so I am only going to mention a few, to give some examples:
- Suduko picture game for younger participants (detail above)
- Seder plate timeline (lining up the items on the seder plate according to date order)
- “Mind reading” game where participants have to guess the concept attached to a crown on their head through pantomimes of the other guests.
- A who said it to who activity using quotes from the Haggadah
- Various quizes, children’s games such as find the error pictures, and logic games, various activities to help identify with Jews leaving Egypt and understand what freedom means.
- Activities that focus on rebuilding the land of Israel based on verses in the Nirtzah section of the hagaddah.
This is a worthwhile addition to your Pesach repetoire. I love the selection of activities and that some of them are out of my general box of tricks. I can see adding some of these this year and in future years when my kids are older. I can also see using the activities throughout Pesach.
One more thing- if you knew Rav Mitch and have a Rav Mitch story, there is an effort to collect them. You can submit them via the book website.
HaKol Baseder was published by Gefen Publishing House with World Bnei Akiva and JNF. Images courtesy Gefen Publishing House.