Your Seder Conversation-Starter

Posted on March 9, 2021

Print This Seder Supplement – Your Seder Conversation-Starter

Rabbi Alex Freedman

Seder Participant Supplement – click on link to open and print Seder Leader Supplement – click on link to open and print

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 2021?
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. (No, it’s not too early to think about as we are only about two weeks away!)

I prepared this updated 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. A few verses from the Torah tell the story of Shifra and Pua, two Egyptian heroines who defied Pharaoh’s orders and saved the Jewish baby boys from death in the Nile. Many of us didn’t learn about them when we heard the Passover story taught in Religious School. That’s a shame, for they were courageous role models. Who today models these values of courage and solidarity with all of humanity? 

The second page includes different quotes about courage, inspired by Shifra and Pua. Selected from a range of personalities and historical figures, these quotes spur us to think about courage in a more sophisticated way. The Passover story highlights courageous acts by women and men, and our understanding of this inner strength should mature as we do. Our conversations should reflect this growth.  

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

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 (in-person and virtual) and adapt to your needs. 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.