April 03, 2020

Reframing the Narrative this Passover with Rabbi Leora Kaye

Posted by Haggadot

family looking at laptop together during seder

Throughout history, the Jewish people have faced more than our share of challenges, obstacles, and oppression – and through it all, we have persevered, proving ourselves resilient, enduring, and adaptable. That is the crux of the story we tell each year on Passover, as we sit around our seder tables and read together from the Haggadah.


This year, though, we are all in the unprecedented position of being largely unable to observe Passover in person – at least not in the communal ways to which we’re so accustomed. There will be no hosting one another in our homes, no gathering together for congregational seders, and yet, there is still so much opportunity for us to come together and to celebrate in community. 


Across the planet, the Jewish people are planning and preparing for a new kind of seder, one facilitated by modern technology. Yes, we are separated by physical distance, but in some ways, the unique circumstances of this moment may bring us closer together than ever, putting an emphasis on relational connections and ritual intention. 


Indeed, this year’s Passover observance offers a particularly unique occasion to do what Passover has always been intended to do – tell a story. It is the story of the Jewish people and how we, as a community, have always come together in challenging times to find a way to freedom. 


The Haggadah is one of many vehicles for telling that story. In creating our own Haggadot, then, we have an exciting opportunity to think about exactly what we want to say, how we want to say it, and how we want it to be heard. 


Do we want to tell the story with humor? With deep, spiritual resonance? With both? Is our story told from a universalistic perspective or a more particularistic lens? Which parts of the story do we want to emphasize? How will we connect this ancient story to other themes and stories of our modern era?  


All of these questions and more can guide us as we craft our telling of the story of moving from slavery into freedom. Our story is one of freedom and redemption, and in choosing our Haggadah text, we even have the opportunity to experience that freedom in the text itself.


In a time when all of us, globally, are experiencing such a frightening moment in time, the Passover seder – and, specifically the Haggadot we use – gives us the much-needed ability to share in something beautiful, sweet, and fulfilling… together. Just like any good story does.

Rabbi Leora Kaye is director of program for the Union for Reform Judaism.