It’s time to take back the (Seder) night! This year, it’s going to be a lively, meaningful, engaging Seder experience for everyone.

Discuss & Debate

Thought-provoking discussion topics with ‘I-never-thought-of-that’ questions to stimulate active discussion around your Seder table. Since no prior Jewish learning is required, everyone will be able to join in. (If serious discussion isn’t your cup of Kiddush wine, try a relevant and meaningful Seder night game for grown-ups, personal reflection question, or fun and quirky resource.)

Special Seder Guest

Discuss at: The beginning of the Seder as an ice-breaker

Prepare ahead: None

  • If you could invite anyone from history to join your Sedertable, who would it be and why? (E.g. Moses; George Washington; my Grandmother; etc)
  • What would your special Sederguest think of the Seder tonight? What part would they find the strangest / most enjoyable?
  • What four questions would they ask about tonight’s Seder?
  • If everyone’s Special SederGuest could be present tonight, do you think they would get along with each other?

The Allure Of Slavery

Discuss atAvadim hayinu (“we were slaves to Pharaoh”)

Prepare ahead: None

Our sages tell us that many Jews did not want to leave Egypt with Moses. During the 40 years that followed in the desert, even those who did leave repeatedly complained that they wanted to go back to Egypt.

  • Why might a slave choose to stay in slavery?
  • What might have happened if the Jews had remained in Egypt as workers, not slaves?
  • Have you ever moved away from something that enslaved you, but secretly felt a ‘pull’ to go back to it? (E.g. smoking, unhealthy eating, a destructive relationship)

 The Four Adults

Discuss it at: The Four Sons

Prepare ahead: None

When we read about the Four Sons, we understand that they are not referring to four specific individuals, but rather to four types of children. Perhaps there are not only four types of children, but also four types of adults in every relationship?

Choose one relationship to focus the discussion (I.e: Four Grandparents, Four Parents, Four Siblings, or Four Friends).

  • Are there Four (types of) Adults? How would you describe each and what ‘title’ would you give each one? (E.g: the absent parent; the cool grandparent; the cheerleader friend)
  • Is each of the Four Sons destined to grow up as one particular Adult, or does each Son have the potential to be any one of the Adults that he/she chooses to be?
  • Do you recognize yourself in any of the Four Adults that you’ve described?

Freedom/Slavery

Discuss at: Anytime

Prepare ahead: Print out and cut up the freedom and slavery quotes.

  • Hand out the quotes about freedom and slavery from our resource section and invite each guest to choose one quote.
  • Ask them to read their quote aloud and explain why they chose that particular quote.
  • Alternatively, place one quote at each place before the Sederbegins, and ask your guests whether they agree or disagree with the quote they have been give.

Symbolism 

Discuss it atArami oved avi (“a wandering Aramean was my father”) when the whole story is encapsulated in three sentences; Rabban Gamliel hayah omer (“Rabbi Gamliel used to say”), which lists three items which are symbols to remind us of the whole Exodus; or right at the beginning of this night of symbolism.

Prepare ahead: Ask guests to bring or come prepared to talk about a symbol which is important to them, and to explain why (e.g. wedding ring, baby teeth, diaries, etc).

Seder night is full of symbols and shorthand codes that are meant to encapsulate the entire exodus narrative. Nested within these symbols and shorthand signs is the full story and impact of the slavery and exodus from Egypt.

  • If you had to run away, what would you take with you and why (beyond items of survival)?
  • Are there any symbols which express who you are? Are they food / possessions / songs / clothing?
  • If your symbols were taken away, how would you replace them? Could you replace them? How would you feel without them?
  • Why would someone choose to use a symbol to express an important event or convey important ideas? Could a symbol can express more than a verbal description?
  • Are there any disadvantages to using a symbol or code?

Standing Out

Discuss it at: metzuyanim sham (“and the Israelites stood out in Egypt”)

Prepare ahead: None

Throughout our history, Jews have been persecuted for looking and being different from our host culture. At the same time, many mitzvos (such as wearing tzitzis and kippah) seem designed to make Jews stand out from the crowd.

  • Is it a positive thing for Jews to be visually and culturally distinct from those amongst whom we live?
  • Have you ever deliberately chosen to make your Jewishness obvious in your personal or business life? Or to hide or downplay being Jewish?
  • Have you ever felt personally discriminated against for being Jewish? Would/did such a feeling make you feel prouder of being Jewish, or motivate you to try harder to blend in?
  • Have you ever felt embarrassed or scared to acknowledge that you are Jewish? What provoked such a feeling?

The Role Of Pain In Bringing Us Closer To G-d

Discuss it at: v’nitzak el Hashem (“and they cried to G-d”)

Prepare ahead: None

When the Jews of Egypt were oppressed particularly cruelly, the verse tells us that they cried to G-d (v’nitzak el Hashem). Our sages[1] point out the ambiguity of this cry: Did they cry out towards G-d in a prayerful plea for salvation, or did they groan in an instinctive animalistic expression of pain and distress which was not directed towards G-d, but which G-d nonetheless heard and responded to? Or could there have been an element of both?

  • Does pain draw us closer to G-d or push us further away from Him? Can there be some types of pain that draw us close, and some that push us away?
  • Does the effect of pain (in pushing us away or drawing us closer) depend upon the attitude of the person involved or on the pain itself?
  • Have you had times when your pain drew you nearer to G-d? Times when your pain made G-d seem further away?

Modern-Day Plagues

Discuss it at: The 10 plagues

Prepare ahead: None

  • Would the 10 plagues of Egypt still be an appropriate punishment against today’s enemies of the Jewish people?
  • If the 10 plagues were visited against a modern-day enemy, what would they be, and how would the Jews be spared? (EG: The plague of no cell-phone reception, so our enemies would have to pay a Jew to make a call on his/her cell-phone)
  • Are the plagues culture-specific, or would you think of the same plagues to punish all our modern-day enemies?
  • How would you feel knowing that your neighbors who hate you are suffering, but that you are spared?

Vengeance

Discuss it at: Sh’foch Chamos’cha (“pour out your wrath”); the 10 plagues.

Prepare ahead: None

In the early days of the State of Israel, the Kibbutz movement brought out their own haggadah. They could not agree on whether or not to include the passage of Sh’foch Chamos’cha, which calls for G-d to avenge our suffering on the nations of the world. On the one hand, it was argued, we do not want vengeance, we want tolerance and mutual support. On the other hand, how can we deny holocaust survivors who are members of our kibbutzim the opportunity to express their desire for vengeance against their own tormentors? In the end, they agreed to remove it from the haggadah, but to print it on a separate piece of paper so that each individual could make their own decision about including it.

  • Do we want vengeance? Is vengeance a Jewish ideal?
  • Should there be a Statute of Limitations on vengeance?
  • Should there be a limit on who is permitted to avenge an act of cruelty?

Is there a difference between avenging your own suffering (e.g. Holocaust survivors) and avenging past suffering (e.g. children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors)?

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You can download the whole practical, usable set of tools, resources and tips to create a meaningful, lively, and relevant Seder night experience here, as well as an extra resource section with all the props for games, quotes, quirky information, and other things that you wish you had to hand to help make your Seder extraordinary.

It’s time to take back the (Seder) night.