11 Creative Ideas for Your Passover Seder
One of the Haggadah’s classic lines declares that even if a person is wise and learned and even if a person knows the Passover story inside out, it is still important to tell and retell the story of our slavery and freedom. Contrast this idea with playwright Arthur Miller’s teaching that "Jews are very impatient with doing the same thing over and over again."
With that juxtaposition in mind, here are some ideas to help you and your family discover something “new” in the very “old” story told by the Haggadah.
- After the traditional Four Questions have been asked and answered, invite seder guests to answer four trivia questions that you’ve developed about historical events from 50 or 100 years ago. For example, this year you might ask, “What band began their first tour as the headline act in 1964?” Answer: The Rolling Stones.
- When you get to the karpas/parsley blessing, which symbolizes thankfulness for the arrival of spring, look at the children around your table. Like spring, they represent growth and new ideas. Pause, ask everyone to hold hands and have the adults bless the children.
- Another way to involve those around your seder table very personally is to ask them to add their own family's story as they know it to the one being retold in the Haggadah. In doing so, they will come to see themselves as part of the historic continuum leading from Egypt to today, others will get to know the stories of—and feel closer to—their friends, in-laws, or whomever, and over the years, this retelling of a particular family’s story can become a source of knowledge and a special treasure to the youngest members of a family. Good luck with your story and enjoy!
- After the Four Questions, the Haggadah turns to the Four Children. At this point, turn to the children sitting at your table and pose a question such as: “What is the best or the most interesting or the weirdest or the most important thing you have learned in school lately?” (Kids from 7 to 17 and beyond! — can answer questions like this one.) Or ask the kids about their favorite subject in school and why they love it so much.
- Another option for after the Four Questions: Invite seder guests (especially the kids) to add a fifth question. The leader of the seder can offer a small prize to the person he or she believes asks the best out-of-the-box, difficult, thought provoking, or humorous question in response to the challenge.
- Plan ahead to telephone someone you love who isn’t at your seder. Put him or her on speaker phone so the person can read a passage from the Haggadah.
- When describing the items on the seder plate, invite those around the table to brainstorm about what object they might add to the plate to make the seder relevant to a particular year. For example, you might add a cap from your favorite baseball team, hoping the team will emerge from the slavery of losing games.
- Another plan ahead option: Gather together various household items (a tennis ball, a sponge, a timer, a remote control, a sock, a light bulb, a bar of soap, etc.) together into a bag to have available at the table. At various points during the seder, invite someone to pull an item out and offer an explanation of how the item fits into the Passover story.
- Before singing "Dayenu," ask guests to think about what it means to have “enough,” especially in our consumer-goods-focused world. Then, invite guests to comment on a “blessing” they have experienced this year or are experiencing at the seder.
- Before you open the door for Elijah to enter your home, distribute index cards and pens to guests and ask them to write down what a particular imaginary guest might say if he or she entered the house along with Elijah. For example, what would Hillary Clinton say if she showed up? What would the Pope say? What about Homer Simpson? Jack Black? Greg Heffley? After singing "Eliahu HaNavi," read the answers aloud, which will, no doubt, be both funny and fascinating.
- Read the Haggadah. Choose wisely so your seder isn’t too long or too rushed — and add your own creativity. If you do, you’ll have a night to remember.
Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro is the rabbi of Sinai Temple, Springfield, MA. He created “The God Survey” which was featured in Reform Judaism magazine in Summer 2012. His love of Passover and its themes has led him to create many opportunities for creativity around the Seder table.