Keeping kids attentive during seder takes a little wit

The obligation of Jewish parents at Passover is clear.

"And you shall tell thy son on the day, saying, 'It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth from Egypt.'" In other words, we are duty bound to tell the Exodus story to our children.

Ideally, children should not only hear about the departure from Egypt but also participate in the seder with great and sustained enthusiasm. Now, that isn't easy, since most youngsters figure the seder has, maybe, three high points — the Four Questions, the afikomen hunt and the moment when we finally (finally being the operative word) sing "Chad Gadya."

Between these parts of the seder, most kids fidget, yawn and/or cry, and it's been like that for ages. It is said that even Rabbi Akiba had to "buy" the attention of the children at his seders by giving them dried ears of corn to play with.

Yes. Keeping kids interested and awake during the seder is tough. But let's face it. Keeping adults from nodding off is no cinch, either. After all, the Exodus story is the same every year. What should we do if we start to "lose our audience." so to speak?

Here are some tidbits that may help open the eyes — both literally and figuratively — of your seder guests. Speak about any or all, as needed…

*Tradition says the Jews left Egypt 2248 years after the Creation on Thursday, the 5th of Nisan. If challenged on this, demand irrefutable proof to the contrary. You are the host!

*HaLachma Anya, the main reading of the Haggadah, which declares, "Let all who are hungry come and eat…" is written in Aramaic. Why? According to tradition, demons understand Hebrew, so this open invitation to the Passover meal was written in Aramaic (which demons don't understand) to prevent the little imps from joining us at the table.

*The preferred way to dispose of chametz is by burning. But, it may also be crushed and thrown into the sea or scattered to the winds. Under no circumstances may you dispose of chametz by feeding it to your pets. You may, however, flush it down the toilet — which could result in the Roto-Rooter man joining your seder whether he knows Aramaic or not.

*Save a piece of afikomen. It will ensure easy childbirth, protect against fires and (if kept for seven years) prevent floods. Or, toss a piece of afikomen in the sea and you'll have a calm cruise since it is written, "For he hath delivered me out of trouble" and the first six letters of those words (in Hebrew) spell matzah!

*Haggadah art often shows the Four Sons in professions that "match" their personalities. The Wise Son usually has a book. The Wicked Son is drawn as a soldier, a boxer or a clean-shaven businessman with a cigarette! The Fourth Son, who knows not how to ask, is seen admiring himself in a mirror. And one Haggadah, to illustrate "this bitter herb," shows a man pointing at his wife!

*Why do we drink four glasses of wine at the seder? Because the Jews, while in Egypt, did four virtuous acts. They kept their Hebrew names, kept the Hebrew language, stayed moral and told only the truth. By the way, even a teetotaler must drink four glasses of wine. One R. Judah did so and then had to "tie his temples until Sukkot." (Surely this must be the longest hangover mentioned in the Talmud.)

*In 1859, an ingenious census of the New York Jewish population was taken, based on matzah consumption. That year, approximately 274,000 pounds of matzah was eaten in New York City. And so, figuring 5 pounds per person (gulp), it was estimated that 54,800 Jews lived in the Big Apple!

*And speaking of apples — why are they the main ingredient in charoset? Because the Israelite women, while in Egypt, gave birth to their babies in apple orchards. They chose the apple tree because only after the tree bears fruit do the leaves grow to protect the fruit. "We will do the same," said the women. "We will bear our children under apple trees and God will protect our children and redeem them."

And if they fidget and yawn, so what? We can always use Rabbi Akiba's corn trick.