There's nothing wrong with asking for help. That sentiment is at the crux of the Passover story. Escaping 400 years of bondage doesn't just happen organically.
The same should apply to leading your Passover seder.
Trust me, I know it's not easy competing for everyone's attention. Growing up, our four questions were: "Is that brisket I smell?" "What's the score of the game?" "We have to do this again tomorrow!?!" And, "Are you sure that's grape juice Little Morty is drinking?"
Plus, if this is your first time hosting, you're probably just hoping to get from beginning to end without a major incident.
However, if you're up for getting a little more out of your discussion this year, here are four rules (and tips) to help guide you through, whatever your level of observance.
Rule #1 -- The Matzah is the Message
Therefore, you have to eat it. No excuses. If you have some intolerance to matzah, find some other item of food that needs to be leavened. Bake it without letting it rise. Then eat it.
Matzah is the bread of affliction. It's supposed to be unpleasant. The dryness, the blandness, the way it sits in your stomach -- that's all part of the experience.
The seder is different from other nights because it forces us out of our comfort zones. It can provide a forum for you, and your loved ones, to digest all of the things which we consume in haste on all those other nights; be they foods, technologies or current events.
Discussion Tip: Share a personal story about a new technology that you have recently purchased and how much more seamlessly it works than the previous model.
Then eat the matzah.
Matzah is the taste of impatience.
Rule #2 -- Begin with Suffering
The word for "order" in Hebrew is "seder." Frontload the beginning of your seder with all the stuff that nobody likes: the bitter herbs, the parsley dipped in salt water, the matzah. Make people taste all of it.
Discussion tip: Pull out the April 4 cover of Newsweek, which reads:
"Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Nuclear Meltdowns. Revolutions. Economies on the Brink. What the #@%! Is Next?"
Ask that question.
Then make your guests wait before serving the meal. Go through, one by one, the selections in the user manual (the "Haggadah"). When doing so, call on people and make them read, even if they don't want to.
If you allow your guests to get too comfortable during this part, then you will be out of order.
Rule #3 -- You Do Not Talk about Moses
Moses is not mentioned at a traditional Passover seder. Look for him in your Haggadah; hopefully you won't find him there.
If you're tempted to mention his name, don't. Moses is not an explanation. It was God, with an outstretched arm and a mighty hand, who liberated the Children of Israel from bondage. Not Moses.
Discussion tip: Suggest that the events unfolding around us are real plagues and a manifestation of God's judgment.
If some guests disagree with you (or are offended) encourage their questioning. But remind them that a Passover seder is the one night when we can, in polite company, suggest that we too have been in bondage and we too have endured plagues.
Rule #4 -- Conclude by Praising God
This is the most frequently overlooked part of the Passover seder. It is also the part that comes least naturally to many of us. So I've included an anecdote to help.
There used to be an elderly Rabbi by the name of Morris Shapiro -- a Holocaust survivor and a Talmudic scholar -- who tutored students in the basement of The Jewish Theological Seminary.
One afternoon, a rather blunt student asked him: "Why do it? After what you experienced? Why did you spend your life this way?"
"God, Torah and Israel," he said. "These are the three things that Judaism rests on."
"I love Toy-rah," he said looking around the seminary basement lined with Jewish texts. "And I love being with the Jewish people, the people of Israel."
"Two out of three ain't bad."
Discussion tip: Ask those assembled if they agree with the rabbi. Invite them to disagree.
Before you conclude, be sure to take a moment to attempt -- in whatever language feels appropriate -- to give praise to a God who is capable of liberating a people.
Follow Rabbi Dan Ain on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rabbidan