If you haven't yet, please click here to read my post about why we should make our Seder more interactive, then keep reading below:
The Seder has tremendous potential for being interactive, engaging, thought-provoking, and spiritually enhancing. Many families, however, zip through a couple/some/all the steps of the Seder like a checklist, and it isn’t very engaging or fun at all. I want to suggest a few ways to make your experience more enjoyable, and I encourage you to look up more information online and/or write to me to discuss options for your Seder.
Here are a few ideas:
- Get everyone involved! Ask people to prepare ahead of time, bring memories of their best (and worst!) Seder experiences, bring readings they are especially fond of, and contribute to the discussions. It will be more interactive and it won’t just be one person reading throughout the evening.
- Hide the Afikoman. Some fun things are already built into the Seder rituals. Are you hiding the Afikoman? (Half a board of matzah which is the official “dessert” at the end of the meal.) Some families have the kids hide it and the parents have to find it or bribe the kids to give it back. Others have the parents hide it and the kids have to go on a Scavenger Hunt to search and retrieve it. Either way, it’s a nice opportunity to keep the kids involved and interested, and you can give them a little gift as a prize at the end!
- Sing a lot! If you have fun melodies for different parts of the Seder, use them all. And invite people to bring their own tunes. If you don’t know many, learn a new one (or two) every year. Please contact me or Cantor Friedrich if you'd like to learn a new tune for Passover.
- Bring in modern activities. Have you included some elements in your Seder that represent current values? Here are some examples:
o Do you talk about the four CHILDREN instead of four SONS, and discuss female role models and archetypes?
o Connected to that, you can put out a "Miriam's Cup" next to your "Elijah's Cup" and fill it with water. Then you can have a discussion about why Miriam is associated with water, and why it's important to have female heroines at our Seder table.
o Have you ever heard of putting an orange on a Seder table? Read about that custom here. To me, the orange symbolizes the outlier - any person who does not feel represented or included at our Seder. And isn't that one of the main messages of Passover? Making space for those who feel persecuted, who were cast aside?
o What if there are vegetarians at your Seder table? Or if you yourself are a vegetarian? It may bother you to put a bone on your Seder plate, so perhaps another symbol can replace it? How about a cooked beet, which "bleeds" like a piece of meat? This symbol has become quite popular in the vegetarian community, and similarly helps provoke questions from people at your table.
- Bring in modern issues. Talk about what slavery means to us today. What are we slaves to? (Jobs, addictions, food) Who are modern-day slaves? (Illegal immigrants, people in the 3rd world, etc.) What does it mean to you that you are free? Do we take it for granted?
- And related to the previous issue, ask challenging questions! Keep people awake by questioning what’s going on in the Seder? For example:
o Are the four questions really four questions? Or maybe there's only really one question, and if so, what is it? And what is the answer?
o Do we agree with how the Haggadah treats the wicked son? How might you have answered the wicked child instead? Why?
o Would it have been enough for us (as the song “Dayeinu” says) if God had taken us out of Egypt but not brought us into Israel? Why do we say, at each stage of the Exodus, that it would have been enough? What is real purpose of that song?
o Was it right that the innocent Egyptians were punished with the wicked (e.g. the first-born children)? Why were the cattle punished? How does removing some wine from your cup help acknowledge the suffering of the Egyptians?
- Plan ahead! As the leader, it’s good to look over the Haggadah and plan what you’re going to say. Where will you ask challenging questions? Where will you ask other people to read? And where will you do silly things? Which leads me to…
- Get physical! Mix things up by not just talking or singing, but getting your whole body involved.
o You can follow a custom from the Jews of Yemen and have everyone actually get up and walk from one room to another to physically reenact the Exodus.
o There is a common custom among Persian Jews and others to beat each other with scallions (!!) when talking about the slavery. Give each person a little cluster of scallion-stalks and take a minute to whip the person next to you. (No, this is not a joke, it’s really a custom!)
- Have fun with it! There is lots of room for fun and silliness in the Seder. For example:
o For the song “Who Knows One?” at the end, you can do voices and hand motions (Deep voice for patriarchs, high pitched for matriarchs, etc.)
o Bring symbols for the ten plagues and give each person one to explain (e.g. plastic frogs, sun glasses for Darkness, plastic bugs, etc.)
o Have funny hats for the Four Children (e.g. Einstein wig-wise child, Darth Vader mask-wicked child, beanie with propeller-simple child, baby bonnet-child who doesn't know how to ask)