How Can I Get The Most Out Of The Seder Experience?
Updated: Feb 15
5 Ways To Enhance Your Seder Experience
Growing up, I would arrive at my relatives’ house for the Seder with a fuzzy recollection of what the Seder entailed. Of course, I eagerly anticipated the chocolate covered matzah, macaroons, and other Passover desserts, which were clear in my memory. As we all sat around the table, the classic Jewish sentiment: “we were oppressed, we survived, now let’s eat,” dominated.
In my mind, this is “passing over” Passover. As I explained last week, the Seder is a time of incredible depth, relevance, and spiritual potential, so the more we prepare for it, the more we can get out of it. Here are a few ways to prep for the big day.
Get a good Haggadah or two
There are so many great Haggadahs out there. Each has a different focus and style, but all can enhance your Seder experience with food for the soul. Here are a few I recommend:
These Haggadahs are great for those who have some familiarity with Hebrew, but do not read Hebrew fluently. The Interlinear format puts the English translation under each Hebrew word and the Transliterated format has the Hebrew transliterated into English for easy pronunciation. Both Haggadahs explain each step of the Seder and give some illuminating commentary along the way. Personally, I like to bring at least two Haggadahs with me to the Seder: The Interlinear Haggadah and one or two more in-depth commentaries, like one of the books below.
I recommended this Haggadah in my last post on Passover. The author, Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, is an American Chassidic Rabbi and a psychiatrist specializing in substance abuse. His contemporary commentary on the Haggadah, which is filled with psychological and spiritual insights and Chassidic stories, is relevant and enlightening. (If you love stories, check out Touched by the Seder).
I have not read this Haggadah, but it seems like a good option if you are curious by nature. The Haggadah answers over 200 questions about the Seder in an easy to read format. The author addresses questions such as, “Why do we cover and uncover the matzahs at specific times? Why is the wise son’s question considered wise? And, what is the significance of God inflicting Ten Plagues?” It is described as “A useful book for anyone looking for a quick, understandable answer to a specific question or for those wanting to encourage interesting conversation at the Seder table by providing stimulating questions – and answers.”
Read through the steps of the Seder beforehand
The Seder, which literally means “order,” is just that: A series of things we say and do throughout the night. It doesn’t take long to read the actual Haggadah beforehand to orient ourselves with the program. In doing so, we may spark some questions, which leads me to my next suggestion.
Prepare a question or an idea to share at the Seder
As we go through the Seder, questions may arise. For instance, what is special about the Seder night if every day we have a mitzvah to recall leaving Egypt? The list of questions is endless. You can pose a question at your Seder table. You may have an answer prepared, based on some commentary in your Haggadah or an article you read. Or not. Either way, these types of discussions enrich the Seder experience.
Make a list of all the things you want to be free from
Last week, I wrote about how the energy of Passover is an energy of liberation, of moving from a place of constriction to freedom. Before the Seder, I like to write a list of things that I feel are holding me back from being my best self. I list bad habits I want to kick or negative self-talk that I want to replace. Sometimes there are situations out of our control that feel constricting. Yet as my teacher Sara Rigler says, we cannot control what happens to us, we can only control our reactions. Choosing to reframe how we view a situation we are stuck in can be liberating. Before I clean my house of chometz (which represents the spiritual “gunk” holding us back) and then again during the Seder, I like to read through the list and imagine myself being freed from my personal limitations.
Make a list of things you are grateful for
My Rabbi in L.A. explains that the essence of the Passover night isn’t just to recount the story of the Exodus. It is to generate a feeling of gratitude and joy to G-d for taking us out of Egypt. Perhaps more relatable, he says we should feel grateful to G-d for all the people who came before us and all the events that had to happen for us to live our lives as we do, which begins with the Exodus but traverses hundreds of years. If you take a moment to reflect on this idea, it is incredible. We have so much to be grateful for, and the Seder night is a time to tap into this joy. Preparing a list of things that we are grateful for, or even recounting a time when we felt personally liberated, can help us to get the most out the Seder.
I wish you a beautiful, uplifting, and life changing Passover!