When you think about what you want your seder to express about your family, think about what memories you want to create for your children and grandchildren and for those who share your seder table. Perhaps the memory is of family and friends coming together, with all their variations and differences, which attest to how we are all always changing and how those changes can serve to strengthen us. If the seder does not have meaning in our immediate lives, we cannot connect the past to the present and the present to the future; and if we cannot do so, the past has no immediacy. Our challenge is to search the past for that which will add meaning to our celebration and consequently to our lives in the present.
Passover is not a time for going inside yourself; rather it is a time for coming out of yourself and acknowledging your membership in a family, in a community, in a people. Perhaps that is why it is easier for those who are not Jewish to relate to Passover more than any other holiday on the Jewish calendar.
Passover is a bridge between the past and the present and the future, between and among people of various backgrounds and faith communities. That is why we have so many non-Jews sitting at our seder tables. So many are comfortable with the concept of exodus from bondage.
The observance and celebration of Passover is in the hearts and minds and souls of the people who sit around your table. It is as much a state of mind as it is a state of action. It is as much a state of being as it is a state of practice.
You decide what you want your seder to express about you and your family or your group.
Perhaps you get it now: Passover is an important holiday and the seder the centerpiece of the holiday.
What Kind of Seder Do You Want?
Following is a series of question aimed at helping you to determine what you want from your seder. They are designed to help you think critically and openly about your likes and dislikes, your needs and your concerns, where you have been and where you hope to go.
1. Did you attend your grandparents' seders as a child? What did you like most about them? What did you like least?
2. What are the elements from those seders you would like to sustain or revive, to include in your own seder?
3. what are the elements from those seders you would like to discard? How will that make your seder different?
4. Which haggadah was used at the seders you attended? Were they haggadahs you would like to use, or do you want to find another haggadah for your seder?
5. Do you want a haggadah that is more traditional or more liberal? Would you like more Hebrew or more English or a combination of both?
7. Have you made you own seder? If not, why? If yes, what kind of experience was it?
8. Which parts were successful and which were less successful? What do you want to preserve, and what do you want to change?
9. Are you a more conservative or traditional person, or do you want to try something different this year?
10. Are there certain parts of the seder you think must be included? What are they? Are there parts of the seder you would like to eliminate? What are they? Would you like to know where you can be creative and still maintain what a traditional seder requires?
11. Are you a more liberal and progressive person? What kinds of changes would you like to try? What issues would you like your seder to include or address?
12. Are you going to be the leader, director, or producer of this seder; or do you have a partner or a team with whom to plan and conduct the seder? Does you partner or team have a clear sense of what they would like the seder to be? Have you shared your thoughts and feelings with one another? How can you include your different ideas and discuss them during the seder?
13. How do you want to divide up the responsibility for the many parts of the seder? Who will be involved in the planning and leading of the seder service?
14. What would you like your guests to bring to the seder? Is there something you would like them to think about, to write about, to talk about at the seder?
15. Who will be responsible for the shopping and the cooking? Who will prepare the ritual foods and symbols?
16. Who will be attending your seder? Will there be young children at your seder? How will you keep the children involved? Will grandparents be attending? Do they have any special needs? Are friends, Jews and non-Jews, attending? How will you help them become a part of the seder?
17. Where will your seder be held? Does the space accommodate the needs of the people who will attend? Is there room for children who may not be able to sit at the table? Have you thought about ways to use the space in order to keep the children engaged?
18. What about music? Can someone play an instrument and possibly teach the melodies to your guests? Could you use a tape or a CD to accompany the singing during the seder? Have you thought about distributing song sheets to your guests? Do you have the need to stick to traditional songs and melodies, or are you open to including songs that address today's issues and use familiar modern melodies, songs that are easy to sing and fun for everyone involved?
19. Has anything happened to your family during the pat year that would be meaningful for you to include in your seder: Have people in the family become ill and unable to attend? Has someone died who should be remembered? Have children married and no join the seder with a spouse or a partner? Have children been born and added to the chain of tradition? Have family members moved to a new home, to a new community, to a new state? Have family members changed jobs?
20. Is anything happening in your community at home, at work, or in the world that you would like to include in your seder?