Arnold D. Samlan
Jewish Educational Leader, South Florida
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Your Passover relevance is killing my seder

When your Haggadah is tailored to spoonfeed your values, you miss out on puzzling through your own questions

I love Pesach/Passover. Love participating in a seder. Love leading a seder. To me, a seder is a magical time that brings together families and friends for food, celebration and meaningful conversation. The Haggadah, which guides the evening, is not a stationary document. It is dynamic, having evolved over (at least) several centuries and has had more than a few revisions and variant versions over the centuries since it was (somewhat) canonized.

Over a lifetime, I’ve seen a number of attempts to make the seder more relevant. In my files and bookcases are the old seder readings for Soviet Jewry (yes, I’m that old), the Shalom seder that was all about peace, a Haggadah for those whose Mitzrayim (Egypt) was addiction, Women’s seder, LGBTQ inclusion seder, American Heritage Haggadah and more. They are all pretty cool and, along with the orange on the seder plate and Miriam’s cup, some of these innovations are frequently included in my seder. Along with a good dose of some Bob Marley redemption music.

At the same time, I saw a red flag when some new “haggadot” and readings showed up in my (snail) mail box and (email) inbox. My concern is that relevance might actually kill people’s seder. How so? I look at the seder as a roadmap/outline, not as the total story. Four questions should pose other questions. Seeing one’s self as though s/he had personally left Egypt should naturally lead to the discussion of what slavery one has experienced. Dayenu ought to provoke conversation about “how much is enough?” Matzah, the poor person’s bread, should take us into a conversation about poverty and about refugees.

My fear is that, by creating all the “relevant” readings, haggadot and sedarim, their authors may actually be destroying organic discussion by spoonfeeding us relevancy.

passover-seder-plate

So, this year, I am planning to forgo the relevant additional readings, trash the inboxed Haggadot and get back to basics. I crave the old school seder and Haggadah. And I want to let them serve as the jumping off point for important conversations about relevant and contemporary issues that they, done properly, take us to.

Best wishes for a chag sameach, a wonderful and meaningful Passover.

About the Author
Rabbi Arnie Samlan, Chief Jewish Education Officer of the Jewish Federation Broward County, Florida, Is a rabbi and Jewish educator whose work has impacted Jewish learners, community leaders and professionals across North America. All blog posts are his personal opinions and are not meant to reflect viewpoints of the Jewish Federation.
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