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Seder Prep: Email Roles Ahead of Time

passover2011traditionPassover 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 hu yatzah 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.

Send an email (or text or letter) in advance of your seder to all your guests. Ask each one to prepare to share something specific during the seder. Your communication can delineate his or her role, giving each person time to reflect about a meaningful presentation. In this way we personalize the experience and honor the unique contribution each person can make to the seder experience.

In the following pre-seder email, we identify the type of person (e.g., musically inclined, video gamer, grandparent). For your email to your guests, you might instead substitute a name of a guest in its place.


Dear family and friends:

Lest our seder become tortuously mind-numbing, we are asking each of you to come prepared to actively participate. We will be using a Haggadah but the truly evocative component will be what each of us contributes from our own experience. Below are your seder assignments and, in brackets, when each will be presented during the seder. Plan for a 2-4 minute presentation. Feel free to call us if you have questions or want to share something other than what we have chosen for you. Please take time to prepare.

Your Seder role is:

Parent of an Infant: Your child is baby Moses in the basket on the Nile River. Create a costume for him or her, with a basket to “float” in. An older sibling—or you—can help the infant reenact the “basket on the Nile” moment. [Maggid – Telling the Exodus story]

Video Gamer: You are an avid video game player. Your challenge is to draw lines of connection between the games you play with the Passover seder. Choose one of your favorite online games; print out a few screen shots. Prepare to explain how the game works and two ways that this game illuminates lessons related to the story of the Exodus. [Before Yachatz – Creating the Afikomin]

Musically Inclined Child/Adult: You are a lover of music and especially musical theater. Choose a song or Broadway show tune that sheds light on the journey to freedom in any of its forms—physical freedom, emotional freedom, spiritual or economic freedom. Be creative. Bring 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. We are attaching a short summary of the story. Use costumes from our costume box or clothes from mom and dad’s closet and props from around the house. [Maggid – Telling the Exodus Story]

Musician: Please provide some musical accompaniment during the seder. Music and words for Dayeinu and other prayers and songs can be found online. Contemporary and secular songs with lyrics about freedom are welcome as well. [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 aid us in living better lives? Be the teacher and teach us. [Before Maggid – Telling the Story]

Person Who Visited History Museums: You recently visited museums depicting _________ {fill in the blank}. What did you learn that sheds light on the central lessons of the Passover story? (For example guests can report about a visit to a Holocaust or Civil Rights museum or similar related exhibits.) [Before Ten Plagues]

Older Teen or College Student: You are learning about communities struggling with their own enslavement, their own “Egypt.” 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 shape your child’s spiritual life. What are one or two Passover lessons you hope will enhance his spirituality in the coming years? [After Urchatz – Symbolic Washing]

New Parent: As a new parent, this is your first Passover with your child. What kind of world do you promise to strive to create so she will not have to wander through a world filled with oppression? [After Rachatzah – Symbolic Washing]

Person who Visited Israel: In what ways is Israel still the Promised Land? 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 Jews still wandering in the wilderness? [Before Nirtzach – Next Year in Jerusalem]

Older Adult: Over the years, you have celebrated many Passovers. Share with us one example of a seder which was particularly meaningful in the way it captured for you 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 photos—your own or those of others—that capture an interpretation of four ways of engaging Judaism. You may use photos of people, animals, or places. Explain how these snapshots illuminate Jewish living. [Before Four Children]

Businessperson: 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 your efforts. [Before Karpas]

Lawyer: As someone who deals with the laws of our nation and/or 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. Describe one way that the law is helping free those previously enslaved. [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? 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 Passover 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 enriching contributions will make our seder memorable and engaging for all!


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