Friday, 15 March 2013

Less Chametz More Heavy Metal


Par-Jorgen Parson (and if I knew how to type umlauts I would have needed three just now) is an investor who sits on the board of Spotify. He’s co-author of a new book which suggests that business schools and corporate-management could learn a thing from great Heavy Metal bands like AC/DC. I don’t much care for loud rock and I don’t spend much of time worrying about MBA programmes, but an article on the book did catch my eye.


‘Why settle for satisfied customers when you could have fans going ****?’ He asks, having pointed out the vast crowds, adoration and vast sums that have accrued to the masters of metal over decades. It’s a good question. He suggests five elements make up a ‘Heavy Metal Management Pentagram’

·         Be epic – tell a great story.

·         Be a master – semi-skilled is not good enough.

·         Be instinctive – appeal to the basic instincts of humanity.

·         Be sensory – involve as many senses as possible.

·         Be forever – stay the course.


It occurred to me he could have been talking about Seder night. Is the Seder epic? Oh Yes. Not only is our own tale; from tiny babe cast adrift to the angel of death and the parting of the sea bursting with energy, its adoption into the freedom narrative of every oppressed people since makes the story we tell, I would argue, the greatest epic of all time. Even Cecil B. De Milne thought so.


Are we masters in telling this tale? Less obviously so. Of course we all have our particular family favourites, but is our Seder a great performance? Mastery takes preparation. Flipping open the Haggadah to try and remember half-forgotten tunes while everyone is sat around is not good enough. If mastering the whole evening feels daunting (and even if it doesn’t) share the load, with notice, give other attendees parts to master themselves.


Be instinctive. I was going to write, for this magazine, on a tiny element in the Seder, but that’s not the point. The point is freedom. Talk about it, celebrate it. One of the most special memories I have of a Seder came several years ago when my father-in-law read the climax of William Hague’s biography of William Wilberforce – the driving force behind the abolition of slavery in this country. There wasn’t a dry eye around the table. The horrors of slavery and the challenges and glories of freedom go to the heart of our fears and hopes.  Focus on what really matters.


Be sensory. Food, music, debate, games? Tick, tick, tick, tick. As a model of what pedagogues call ‘multiple intelligence theory’ the Seder is truly remarkable. We should allow each of these different approaches to have their moment and ensure those, of whatever age, most likely to become bored or disillusioned are brought in and engaged with according to their needs.


Be forever. Actually maybe even AC/DC could learn a thing or two from the Seder – 3,000 years and counting. But the longevity Parson is talking about isn’t to do with focussing on the length of our past. It’s about focussing on the length and strength of our future. As we sit round the table; sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, remembering those who have gone before we should take a moment to ensure the future of our telling of this great tale, and the message of freedom it carries at its heart is developed and vouchsafed.


There, five Heavy Metal inspired guides for our Pesach celebrations. May they serve us well.


Chag Kasher V’Sameach,

Josephine, Carmi, Harry, Eli and I wish one and all a wonderful Pesach,


Rabbi Jeremy


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