Seder doesn’t have to be boring!

malala-yousafzai

**Yes, Purim has just ended, but it takes some dedicated preparation time to create a meaningful seder experience!

Should the seder remain exactly the same from year to year. Or, is there value in adding new interpretations based on how we and the world have changed? What experiences and insights can we use to infuse the seder with an added layer of relevance and meaning? What contemporary insights might be gained from performing ancient rituals?

Chametz

The leavened products that may not be eaten during Passover.  To learn more about what hametz is, visit: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/leaven-hametz/

Spiritual meaning of hametz

Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav understands hametz to represent the evil inclination          (yetzer ha-rah)(http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-birth-of-the-good-inclination/). Difficulty: How do we strengthen our inner desire to do good?  What obstacles do we face?

The mystics consider hametz to be spiritual obstructions. Rabbi Eliahu Klein writes (A Mystical Haggadah, p.10) that the “yeast in the bread” obscures the innate light that wishes to illuminate naturally.  In other words, hametz is an energetic, psychological, and spiritual obstruction.

Difficulty: How does mindfulness practice help us address these obstructions?

In The Holistic Haggadah, Michael Kagan describes hametz as our over-inflated ego. Just as we need to rid our food of all things that puff it up, we need to rid ourselves of all false pride that puffs us up.  And Ruth Gruber Freedman (The Passover Seder: Afikomen in Exile, p. 90) explains that matzah represents the spiritual ideal while hametz represents spiritual imperfection.

Difficulty: What is your concept of a spiritual ideal and spiritual imperfection?

Making rituals meaningful (Kagan)

Searching for Hametz :   Search for your “inner spoilage,” i.e. our over-inflated ego.

Burning Hametz – Identify and determine to let go of attachments

Lighting the candles – Bring in the light of…(hope, love, peace, connection, ???)

Blessing the children – Our children are our future. How can we give them roots in a precious heritage and encourage them to spread their wings to fly into a Jewish life we may not have imagined but which speaks to them?

Discussion: Engaging all the generations represented around the seder table, compare and contrast basic Jewish beliefs and experiences. 

Karpas dipped in salt water – The Karpas represents spring and new life. Water taken in sustains that life. The human body was built to handle just small amounts of salt.   Connecting to your inner flow, to what inner Egypt/ Mitzrayim/ Narrow place – i.e. unsustainable and unfulfilling life does the salt water take you?

Difficulty: How can you rescue yourself from that narrow place?

Yahatz – Breaking the matzah. This represents the broken self. Connect the journey from wholeness to brokenness and back to wholeness to the blasts of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah (tekiah – 1 whole but short blast; teruah – 3 broken blasts; shevarim – 7 broken staccato blasts; tekiah gedolah – one long blast representing shalom – wholeness and peace).

Difficulty: How can we reconcile that even as the Israelites carried both the broken and whole tables through the wilderness, we, too, carry the broke and the whole through our lives?

Maggid – This is the retelling of the Passover story. It is also a time to tell our own story and connect it to the historical and spiritual narrative captured by the Haggadah.  What threads connect us to the past, present and future of the Jewish community?

Difficulty: Passover is about all Jews sharing a collective narrative.  Today, when there is so much divisiveness between the far right and other expressions of Jewish life, what do we all share in common and how are we different?  How are these connections and disconnections reshaping the Jewish community?

Some other thoughts

Consider the Pharaohs that still enslave abuse, threaten, bully, cheat, traffic, and oppress.   Make your own haggadah or select readings that address contemporary experiences of oppression – political, social, emotional, economic and spiritual – across the globe. Visit http://www.haggadot.com for templates and resources.

Listen to world music that captures the longing for and experience of freedom. Write or read poetry that connects us to journeys – those yearned for and those realized. Take a walk and enjoy the liberating feeling brought on by the explosion of spring. Find or take a photograph of something that stirs your inner being and evokes deeper understanding of the human experience of slavery and liberation.   Taste Passover foods using recipes from around the world. Reach out to people who might otherwise be alone during the holiday.

Whether your Seder is long or short, in English or Hebrew, traditional or contemporary, sung on or off key, with family, friends or strangers – make the most of the experience. What matters most is that we internalize the message of the Seder that we are not truly free until all are free.   And determine to make a difference, even the smallest difference, in the coming year.

For alternative contemporary haggadot, visit: http://www.rac.org/pesach-themed-haggadot

Wishing you an engaging, inspiring Seder experience and a joyous, hametz-free Passover.

Shabbat Shalom and (an early) Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi

25 Adar II 5776/ 25 March 2016

 

 

 

 

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