Is your Seder gathering a reading session? Do participants around your table sit with their heads buried in a book, reading and following along? It doesn’t sound like a very nice dinner party to me. When I dine with my family and friends, it’s the conversation and interaction, the discussion and debate that I enjoy most. We don’t get together and then read to one another.
This is an example of what shouldn’t be different on Passover. The word Haggadah means telling. We need a Haggadah at our Seder tables as a foundation. We use the words to recite the various blessings. We want to follow the prescribed order of the evening’s ritual and celebration. We want to remember our history and learn something new together from the interpretations and texts. But the main focus of our Sedarim ought to be conversation and interaction between those present.
At most every Seder someone is present who can explain the symbols. In some form, all of us know the Exodus story. We can wonder about and answer our children’s questions without having to read a text. Then we can refer to the Haggadah for more information and insight when we need it.
Prepare a talking Seder. It’s not hard to do. Generate questions for discussion that reflect Passover’s themes in current events and personal circumstances. Connect the ritual customs to personal memories and experiences. Ask relatives and friends to think creatively about one part of the Seder in advance. Actively engage children with various activities and materials. There are so many resources out there these days for creative and inspiring Seder celebrations.
One of these resources is Haggadah Shelanu, Chizuk Amuno’s Haggadah that Alex Weinberg and I created last year. It’s still in draft form, but we offer it to you as a new tool. We’d love your feedback and comments for improvement, too.
Preparing a meaningful Seder is one of the most important needs we have as Passover approaches. Using the Haggadah as a resource and guide, thinking about who will be present at your table, telling the story of our ancestors’ exodus from Egypt and, most of all, bringing our thoughts and reactions to what we are doing, a talking Seder can be the most meaningful dinner party you enjoy this year.