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03/29/2020 08:05:18 PM


Michael Greenfield

Our Friday night onegs are on Zoom, our synagogue is in a county under quarantine, and we all know exactly how many rolls of toilet paper we own right now. It's a unique moment, and it calls for a unique approach to the Seder. If you were thoughtful about your panic buying, you'll still be able to drink your four cups of wine. Tradition! But what if you can't find matzah or horseradish or parsley? What if you don't know how to make a seder? You can do it. We can help. Deep breaths, keep reading.

The first night of Passover is next Wednesday, April 8. We'll be hosting a virtual Seder on Zoom on Thursday night, April 9. Whether you're planning to join the virtual Seder or observe on your own or both, let's use the next 10 days to:

  1. Remind ourselves what's essential for a Seder.
  2. Embrace the need for creativity, flexibility, and resilience.
  3. Find the heart of meaning for you and focus on that.
  4. Start planning - and plan for change at every turn.


1 - What's essential for a seder?

Tell the story of the exodus from Egypt. See ourselves as if WE had been freed from slavery. Rededicate ourselves to caring for the stranger in our midst because we were strangers once, too. Everything else is simply in service to those goals, and all the oddities of the Seder are just there to make the night different and memorable, which is pretty much in the bag already for this year. Though I think the four cups of wine really helps with the continuity. Is that just me?

2 - Creativity, Flexibility, Resilience

Some of you are thinking, "I need matzah, don't I? What if I can't find any?" Not to worry. If you can't go out, or if you go out but don't find any, there are still options. And I'm not talking about that $29 box of matzah on Amazon. Price gougers are the new Pharaoh - we don't need them. With some pretty minimal effort you can make matzah using this recipe or dozens of other recipes on the web. If you can't make matzah, use crackers or the closet thing you have that isn't bread. It's a metaphor for hardship; it's okay to improvise during this moment of hardship. You're still wondering, But will it be kosher for Passover? Manischewitz is only 130 years old. What do you think our people did before that? If it was good enough for our ancestors, it's good enough for us. Plus, there's a bit of plague happening at the moment, so this is really the perfect time to improvise on the fly. Don't have horseradish? No problem. Have everyone take a bite of something they don't like. Don't have charoset? Neither did the Israelites. It's another metaphor; mash a fruit or a veggie, chew on some taffy, draw a picture or make some from clay and just point to it. Don't have parsley or an egg? Not to worry. They're symbols of renewal. If you don't have them, talk about the signs and symbols that you'll be looking for in the world that will tell us we're moving from hardship to freedom. Don't have wine? Oy! I'm so sorry to hear that. Wine gladdens the heart, says the Psalms. A good friend of mine says the same thing. Drink something that makes you happy.

3 - The heart of meaning.

Here's something you may not know. The Seder has been changing constantly for over 2000 years. As times have changed, the Jewish people have changed the Seder to meet the moment in which they lived. This year more than most, we'll join that long and proud tradition of making the Seder work for us. If you're planning to Skype or Zoom with family and friends, that's going to alter the Seder, too. FOR THE BETTER. Embrace that. Embrace the chaos that will come with it. Talk about it. And talk about those who are living in hardship right now. Talk about what we can do to help them move towards freedom. Talk about those who are working on the front lines of treatment while we are at our Seder tables. Talk about those who go out each day to work in grocery stores, utilities, sanitation, law enforcement. And talk about that piece of Passover - the thing that you love the most, the thing that makes the holiday for you - that you're missing this year. Talk about what you hope to have at next year's Seder. And at the end of the Seder, say to each other, "Next a healthy world!"

4 - Plan. And plan for change.

If you've never led a Seder before and you think it's beyond you, I've got news for you - you can't get this wrong. Rabbi Tali Zelkowicz teaches that Judaism is a jungle gym, not a china shop. Go ahead and play. Swing. Slide. Bang on it. I promise, you won't break it. Figure out what you can reasonably acquire to make your Seder. All the Haggadah links above are free downloads and there are PLENTY more out there. Construct a Seder from parts of each. Embrace parts that are meaningful, skip parts that aren't. Assign a part to each participant in advance and let them do what they want with it. Go online to find uniquely Reform additions to a Seder, or use your favorite poems or readings about redemption. Visit sites that teach children the Seder songs and the Four Questions. Order or shop or scavenge or improvise but expect - and allow for - change. As we've all heard by now, Please note that some items are not currently available and substitutions will be made as needed. And remember that we're all sheltering in place, so no one has to drive home after drinking four cups of wine. Also, there's two different hand washings built into the Seder already, so that's good.

Nu, mah nishtanah? We all know the answer. It can still be meaningful. Connect with the people you love and don't get hung up on what's missing this year. Focus on sharing this unprecedented Passover experience and appreciating all that we do have.

Thu, December 8 2022 14 Kislev 5783