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Engaging Seders: Give Each Guest a Seder Responsibility

Passover invites us to place ourselves within the story of the Exodus from Egypt. In the Haggadah we read: Bechol or vador chayav adam lirote et atzmo k’eelu hunyatzah mimitzrayim – in each and every generation a person must see him/herself as if he/she went forth from Egypt. The Seder calls us to journey personally to the promised land, from hopelessness to hopefulness, from pain to healing, from oppression to freedom.

As such, the Seder itself needs to involve every person, a feat easily accomplished with one quick email sent to your guests. Imagine asking guests to prepare to share something specific during the Seder. Your email sent even the day before the seder could delineate his/her role, giving each one time to think about a meaningful presentation.

Here’s Our Pre-Seder Email
Our pre-Seder email looks something like this. Like we did, you should substitute your guests’ names for descriptions that fit. Use our suggestions and/or make up your own. In parentheses after each assignment, we suggest times in the seder to make the presentation. To remember the story, check out pages 7-9 of my friend’s online Haggadah.

Dear family and friends:

Lest our seder become boring, we are asking each of you to come prepared to participate actively in our Seder. We will be using a Haggadah but the really meaningful experience will come from what each of us bring from our own lives to the Seder.

So here are your seder participation assignments. Plan for a 3-5 minute presentation. Feel free to email or call me if you have questions or have something different you would rather share. But please, take time to prepare. And know this: no prepared sharing, no food for you. Enjoy preparing:

Infant: You are baby Moses in the basket on the Nile. Have your parent(s) create a costume for you, with a basket to “float” in. Your older sibling(s) – or your parent(s) – can help reenact the Nile moment. [Maggid – telling story of the Exodus]

Video Gamer: You are an accomplished video game player. Your challenge is to connect the games you play with the Passover Seder. Choose one of your favorite online games; print out a few screen shots. Prepare to explain the game, how it works, and two ways that this game illuminates lessons relevant to the story of Passover and the exodus. [Before Yachatz – Creating the Afikomin]

Musically Inclined Child/Adult: You are a lover of music and especially musical theater. Choose one or two modern songs or Broadway show tunes that shed light on the journey to freedom in any of its forms – physical freedom, emotional freedom, spiritual or economic freedom. Be creative. Come with copies of the lyrics or a recording of the song. Be ready to play or sing these songs and to share how they harmonize with the teachings of Passover. [Before Dayeinu]

Dramatically Inclined Child/Adult: Before we sit down to the Seder, please gather all the children and prepare a short dramatic play about the exodus story. I am attaching a brief review of the story. Use costumes from our costume box or clothes from mom and dad’s closet. [Maggid – Telling the Story]

Musician: You can provide musical accompaniment during the Seder where possible and comfortable. Music and words for Dayeinu and other prayer and songs can be found on the internet. Any modern songs you can play that talk about freedom would also be appropriate for our Seder. [Throughout the Seder]

Middle School Student: What have you learned in your history class about ancient Israelite or Egyptian culture? How can lessons from history in general help us love better lives today? You be the teacher and teach us. [Before Maggid – Telling the Story]

Person Who Visited History Museums: You recently history visited museums depicting _________ {fill in the blank}. What did you learn there that sheds light on the important lessons past and future of the Seder/Passover story. (Perhaps guests can report about a visit to a Holocaust museum, museums recounting the civil rights movement, locations of Japanese internment, important places in the LGBT rights movement or other similar locations.) [Before Ten Plagues]

Older Teen or College Student: You are learning about communities struggling with their own enslavement, their own Egypts. Teach us about one such community in the world today. Where is their Egypt, that dark, narrow place which torments them? Who is their Pharaoh, the one most responsible for their oppression? How can we be the Moses and Miriam to help lead them to freedom or how can we help nurture their own leaders? [Before Matzah]

Parent of Young Child: As a new parent, you have an opportunity to use the Seder to mold your child’s spiritual life. What are one or two spiritual lessons you hope will enhance his spirituality in the coming years of Seders together. [After Urchatz – Symbolic Washing]

New Parent: As a new parent, this is your first Passover with your child. What are kind of world do you promise to strive to create so she won’t have to wander so much in life? [After Rachatzah – Symbolic Washing]

Person who Visited Israel: Tell us: In what ways is Israel the Promised Land still today? During your visit, when did you feel like you were spiritually enlivened? Though our people reside in the Holy Land, in what ways are we still wandering in the wilderness? [Before Nirtzach – Next Year in Jerusalem]

Older Adult: Over the years you have celebrated many a Passover, each time focusing on the unique issues of the moment in life. Share with us one example of a Passover gone by which was particularly meaningful in the way it captured the lessons and values of the festival. [After Urchatz – Symbolic Washing]

Older Adult: Over your years you have seen pharaohs rise and fall, enslaving physically and/or spiritually peoples or individuals. Similarly, you have seen people make it to the promised land of freedom. Share with us one example of a journey to freedom – personal or national – that you witnessed in your lifetime. [Before Maror – Bitter Herbs]

Photographer: The Haggadah speaks of four children, representing four ways of connecting to Judaism. Print four pictures – your own or those of others – that capture an interpretation of four ways of engaging Judaism. You may use pictures of people, animals, places. Explain how these teach about Jewish living. [Before Four Children]

Businessman: The karpas or greens are dipped in salt water. The karpas – and the egg – represent the promise of spring and of new life and new hope. From your work in the world of business, share with us how a new spring is dawning for the world through these efforts. [Before Karpas]

Lawyer: As someone who deals with the laws of our nation/community, you know how laws can enslave and laws can free. Describe one way that the law is still used to oppress one subgroup in our country. Explain what is happening to change this law. [Before Ten Plagues]

Medical Professional: You work in healthcare. Access to adequate healthcare and the lack thereof is a plague for our generation. In what ways have you seen access to healthcare become more of a plague and what are hopeful signs that the plague is lifting? [After Ten Plagues]

Grandparent: You have a grandchild and are anticipating celebrating Jewish life with her. What are central Jewish ideas and values that you hope to pass onto her as she grows. How is a Passover Seder an opportunity to do so? [Before Yachatz – Breaking the Matzah]

Thank you all ahead of time for preparing. We will weave your presentation throughout the Seder. Your efforts will make our Seder that much more engaging.

See you all at the Seder.

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