Your Passover Relevance is Killing My Seder

I love Pesach/Passover. Love participating in a Seder. Love leading a Seder. To me, a Seder is a magical time that brings together families and friends for food, celebration and meaningful conversation. The Hagaddah, which guides the evening, is not a stationary document. It is dynamic, having evolved over (at least) several centuries and has had more than a few revisions and variant versions over the centuries since it was (somewhat) canonized.

Over a lifetime, I’ve seen a number of attempts to make the Seder more relevant. In my files and bookcases are the old Seder readings for Soviet Jewry (yes, I’m that old), the Shalom Seder that was all about peace, a Hagaddah for those whose Mitzrayim (Egypt) was addiction, Women’s Seder, LGBTQ inclusion Seder, American Heritage Hagaddah and more. They are all pretty cool and, along with the orange on the Seder plate and Miriam’s cup, some of these innovations sometimes are frequently included in my Seder. Along with a good dose of some Bob Marley redemption music.

At the same time, I saw a red flag when some new “hagaddot” and readings showed up in my (snail) mail box and (email) inbox. My concern is that relevance might actually kill people’s Seder. How so? I look at the Seder as a road map / outline, not as the total story. Four questions should pose other questions. Seeing one’s self as though s/he had personally left Egypt should naturally lead to the discussion of what slavery one has experienced. Dayenu ought to provoke conversation about “how much is enough?” Matza, the poor person’s bread, should take us into a conversation about poverty and about refugees.

My fear is that, by creating all the “relevant” readings, Hagaddot and Sederim, their authors may actually be destroying organic discussion by spoon-feeding us relevancy.

passover-seder-plate

So, this year, I am planning to forgo the relevant additional readings, trash the inboxed Hagaddot and get back to basics.  I crave the old school Seder and Hagaddah. And I want to let them serve as the jumping off point for important conversations about relevant and contemporary issues that they, done properly, take us to.

Best wishes for a Chag Sameach, a wonderful and meaningful Passover.

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6 responses

  1. Betty Ann Ross | Reply

    What a coincidence – my adult children have requested a “traditional” seder this year. I have spent my life trying to “update” the seder. I guess they decided it’s time to retreat into structure. Maybe it’s something in the water!?!

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  2. Sorry – I don’t buy this. Relevant readings don’t kill a seder. A seder leader/planner who uses them in a way so as to shut down conversation does so. Just like he/she can kill a seder by using the “traditional” haggadah in the same way. When used well, those same readings can be used to create a powerful seder experience.

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  3. My biggest concern is that people get the answers to how to make the Seder relevant without having the time to ask the questions and have the conversations.

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  4. Rabbi Haviva Horvitz | Reply

    Each seder should be as “relevant” as those in attendance make it. I like the article. I agree that, although the leader’s role is that of guidance, and even education, we should not force the focus, or we remove the spirit.

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  5. Perhaps our PC culture is rubbing off. I fear those who fear questions and contemplation. Thanks!

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