February 28, 2022

Five Freedoms for a Fantastic Seder



By Rabbi Evan J. Krame

My earliest memories of Passover Seders are of my grandfather mumbling Hebrew. The only interruption was a child singing the “di fir kashes” (four questions in Yiddish). I don’t recall seeing my grandmother during the seder because she was in the kitchen almost the entire night.  Rather than the obligatory, rote and uninspiring Passover of the 1960s, liberate your seder! Here are some tips for a freer and more engaging seder in 2022.


The bowl of freedom. Here’s how to free grandma or other chefs from the kitchen.  Write an activity related to serving the seder meal on a card or slip of paper. I like index cards. Put just one activity per index card. Create more cards than there are guests. The tasks written on the cards can be anything from serve the soup to put desserts on the table. Then, find a large bowl or box to put on the table.  Place the cards inside.  Invite everyone to take one or two cards.  If it is a large table, pass the bowl around.  Ask everyone to read their newly selected tasks out loud and be prepared to help with the meal at the right time.  Everyone has an obligation to participate in the seder, so why not in the dining experience?


The wine of freedom. No more sweet concord grape wine. Open your wine fridge to some great wines that even oenophiles will love. Try a champagne for the first glass.  Perhaps a dessert wine for the fourth glass.  Our family loves a kosher for Passover fig arak to end the meal.


The chair of freedom. Our modern tradition is to gather at a dining room table, crowded and often uncomfortable. One of the obligations of the seder is to lean to the left in a show of ease and comfort. However, leaning to the left on a pillow can be a logistical challenge in the dining room. So how about moving the first half of the seder to the living area? Kids can sit on the floor while otherwise cranky aunts and uncles cuddle on the couch. Just remember to cover any furniture that would be ruined by some spilled beverage.


The story of freedom. The purpose of the Passover story extends beyond a historical exercise.  It is a reminder that no people should be oppressed. So bring another story of oppression and freedom to your table. Offer that assignment in advance to one of your guests. For example, my Persian brother-in-law tells how he escaped from Iran. Or offer to tell the story of Harriett Tubman.  Then invite everyone to discuss how that story of freedom relates to our exodus from Egypt.


The health of freedom. Staying healthy offers us the freedom to live our lives as we choose. Some are confined by illness. Others are released by medicine, therapy or surgery. After two years of a pandemic, how does our concept of freedom relate to illness and health? Or discuss how our nation’s devotion to freedom has been challenged. Is a healthy democracy the key to true freedom? Exercise caution here as you don’t want politics to derail a great seder.


Figuring out how to gather again requires a little bit of thought. As we are freed up to invite family and friends to our seders, liberate your seder into a brave new world!


About the Author: Rabbi Evan J. Krame serves the greater D.C. community as Rabbi of the Jewish Studio, focusing on bringing a joyful and meaningful Judaism to adults. Rabbi Krame is the founder of Jewish Doorways, an online resource for making life events meaningful. He currently serves as the President of the Washington Board of Rabbis.


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