Explain the Haggadah/journal at each place:

While we will use a little of it during the program as our Haggadah, it is really intended for participants to take home and to use it as a journal. It offers one comment on each of the steps of the seder as a reflection.

1) Seder literally means “order.” Death and suffering upsets the natural order of the world, just as slavery and oppression upset natural order for Jewish people. Part of task of the seder, and grieving is to reestablish order in the world and in our lives. Sing the order of the Seder together (page at the beginning of the Haggadah.)

2) Empty Chair – Instruct participants to take some time to introduce themselves and their loved one who is represented by the empty chair, that person’s name, and how many seders it will be without that person. Many people have lost more than one loved one, but ask them to introduce only one person at this time. Right now, ask them to just give the basic information- there will be time later for stories.

3) Karpas - Take advantage of the sensory experience of Seder. Speak about the salt water as tears, green as spring and renewal - but in life, experiences are seldom pure, with only one thing at a time happening in our lives and emotions, so taste the sadness and hope together. Dip parsley in salt water, say the bracha together.

4) Break the middle matza, and wrap it (have cloth or napkin handy.) Comment on matzah conveying a sense of brokenness- and/or on feeling of being hidden as a mourner, after the first weeks, and other feelings of being hidden, or God hiding, or that kind of thing.

5) Questions – a seder must have questions, in order to tell the story. Even if only rabbis are at a seder, they must ask questions. Ask group to look at the seder plate and say what is unfamiliar. For most it will be the beet, in place of the bone. Since all of the objects are symbolic, in reality anything can be used. The bone is only symbolic of the Passover offering, so the beet can also be a symbol of that as well. One talmudic rabbi used a beet at his seder, so there is a long tradition to this. However, the beet here is for the purpose of making someone ask a question.

What are your questions, especially the unanswerable ones that you have asked since the death of your loved one.

6) Maggid – Telling the story. We begin this section by telling our national story of oppression and loss (can sing avadim hayyinu). Having told our national story, allow participants some time to share a personal story of a seder, or other holiday memory with their loved one – something funny, sad, or just an observation. (Group leader might need to model a quick story or image for group.)

7) Dayenu/it would be enough - Jews are ambivalent about saying dayenu- we don’t really mean it would be enough if God took us out of Egypt, and left us at the edge of the sea. In the words of the Psalmist, when it comes to loved one, it would never be enough time - whether a person lives a single day, or a thousand years. Sing dayenu - just 3 or so verses, encourages people to think about their own “dayenu,” going through the steps of the blessings hich they did receive during loved ones life.

8) Korech- the sandwich. Comment on various elements of the sandwich, and how in themselves they represent so many different aspects. For example, matzah is both a bread of poverty and of freedom. Also, haroset and romaine lettuce, as the brick and clay of the sandwich, are at first sweet. But the longer you chew, the more bitter it gets - like the Jewish experience in Egypt. Sometimes we hold onto our own bitterness and keep chewing it long after it helps us. (Instruct participants in making the sandwich and eat - no blessing is said)

9) Elijah- theme of the second half of the seder is the theme of redemption. Elijah is prophet of healing, invite in healing for self and for world. Sing Eliahu hanavi.

10) Hallel, included for us to rejoice and appreciate our blessings. Sing ki l’olam hasdo from the hallel, possibly to the melody of Adir hu (or choose another song to sing from hallel). If you use ki l’olam hasdo, comment on hasdo/hesed(loving - kindness) and encourage particpants to think about what kind of support has gotten them through hard times and what kind of hesed they have offered others.

11) Conclude with a few Passover songs - you can point out that the song, Chad Gadya, ends with God vanquishing the Angel of death.


haggadah Section: Introduction
Source: "Coping with the Empty Chair at the Seder: A workshop for bereaved Jews