The Passover meal called Seder, meaning “order” and referring to the sequence of fifteen practices during the meal, is designed to remind Jews of the ancient slavery of their ancestors in Egypt, the exodus from that slavery, the many ways that we are physically, emotionally, and psychologically enslaved today, and to work to free ourselves and others from the current enslavements.

Interestingly, the Seder is one of several non-biblical practices that even generally non-observant Jews obey on Passover. Another two, for example, are observed on Passover and on other occasions, are not like the Seder a happy occasion, but involve mourning practices, and are arguably based on superstition. One is the saying of the kaddish and yizkor for the dead. Many Jews feel that unless they say the kaddish for eleven months for parents and on the anniversary of their death, the yahrzeit, harm will come to their dead parents. Recently, this notion was elaborated upon with the concept of illui neshamah, the belief that certain acts by live people can cause the dead to go to a higher level (higher to where is unstated). Many Jews also think that wishing a mourner “may your father/mother have an illui neshamah” increases the chances for the rising. Still another non-biblical practice observed even by non-observant Jews is that people whose parents are alive leave the synagogue when yizkor is said because they are convinced that if they are present in the synagogue when the yizkor is recited their currently alive parents will die during the upcoming year. In contrast to these acts, the Seder is rational.

The fifteen customs of the Seder are designed to capture the interest of adults and children and encourage them to think of the message of Passover. Many different gimmicks are used to capture the interest of children; the most well-known is giving them four questions to ask, hoping that they will become interested in the answers to their questions and even ask some questions of their own.

The Dry Bones Haggadah is perfect for helping both adults and children reflect upon the exodus from ancient slavery and its meaning today. It is fun to look at, both the Hebrew and its modern English translation are printed in an easy to read almost poetic-like structure. The book is by the same cartoonist who published the very popular Dry Bones cartoons for forty years. Many of the pages have clever funny cartoon strips. On other pages there are interesting drawings.

For example: One cartoon strip shows Moses speaking to God.

“Israel will become a light unto the nations?”

“Yes, but the nations will get really good at looking the other way.”

Another portrays a man complaining.

“Every year I seem to put on a few pounds, and I’ve finally figured out why: Yom Kippur is one day of no food, and Passover is one week of overeating!”


[1] By Yaakov Kirschen, Menorah Books, 2017.