North Suburban Synagogue Beth El

Introducing the Seder Supplement

Posted on April 17, 2019

Shabbat Pesach I – 5779
Introducing the Seder Supplement

Here are four new Passover questions I have for you:

1. Has your Seder discussion gotten stuck?
2. How do you take this ancient story and refresh it for 2019?
3. How do you engage both kids and adults?
4. How do you interest both Seder rookies and veterans? 

Leading the Seder conversation is a challenge. Let the Seder Supplement help you.

I prepared this new handout to spark a table discussion. (A big thank you to Abby Lasky for the graphic design).

The Seder Supplement has two front-and-back pages. The first contains a classic Torah text study with two guiding questions. The beginning of Exodus speaks of defining moments in the life of young Moses. These few verses reveal an impressive character, one whom G-d soon appoints to liberate the Jews. What leadership traits do we see in young Moses? Are they still relevant today?

The handout also includes a collection of different quotes about freedom. Selected from a range of personalities and historical figures – Jewish and global – these quotes nudge us to think about freedom in a more sophisticated way. While the themes of freedom and slavery remain timeless, our understanding of them matures as we do. Our conversations should reflect this growth. This conversation is accessible to kids and adults, Seder novices and veterans, Jews and non-Jews. Exactly what does freedom look like in 2019?

This first handout is for all the guests; print out a bunch for the table to start a conversation. Also print out one copy of the second handout for the Seder leader. This contains my insights on the Moses Torah study, in order to dive a little deeper. It also includes a series of Seder trivia questions to keep things interesting.

The Haggadah text itself is a conversation starter, but sometimes it needs to be unlocked. That’s what the Seder Supplement is intended to be. The word “Haggadah” itself means “Telling the story.” So does the Hebrew word “Maggid,” the longest section of the Seder. The Torah tells us “You shall tell your child on that day [of a future Passover holiday], ‘It is because of what G-d did for me when I left Egypt’” (Ex. 13:8). The challenge – and ultimate satisfaction – is to create an experience and conversation that makes it feel as if we ourselves taste both slavery and freedom. So we’ve got to talk about it. The conversation itself is the experience of renewed liberation. After all, only free people can speak freely. 

If you’re hosting, feel free to make copies for your guests and adapt to your needs. If you’re a guest at someone else’s table, consider bringing it to your hosts. The hardest part is starting a meaningful conversation. Once it begins, however, it’s as sweet as Haroset. 

No Seder leader can control what the guests will say and who will participate. But every Seder leader can prepare for success by organizing in advance questions, stories, songs, games, and topics for discussion. 

This Passover, let’s liberate the conversation too. 

Rabbi Alex Freedman