WordPress, the outfit that makes it possible for me to post this blog, also provides me with data about the Google searches that lead people here. Today one caught my eye and urges me to write: “how to have a seder alone.”
Jews generally celebrate everything in community. There are even some things we can’t do properly without a certain number of persons present: say the Kaddish prayer, chant from the Torah, or get married, to name just a few. While there is no rule against reading through the Haggadah alone, “Seder” suggests a group of people around a table, telling the Exodus story together. It was designed by the ancient rabbis as an opportunity to learn and share with other Jews. Yet sometimes circumstances are such that it just isn’t possible to gather with friends for a seder. Here are some thoughts for dealing with Passover solo.
1. IT’S OK TO ASK. In Western culture, it is generally considered impolite to “invite myself over” to someone’s house, especially for a meal. Passover meals are one of the exceptions to this rule. If you are going to be in a city but don’t know any of the Jews there, call a local Jewish institution (synagogue, the Federation) and tell them that you are alone for Passover and need somewhere to go for seder. Often they can provide a lead to a household where they look forward to keeping the mitzvah of a new person at the table. It’s a mitzvah for them, and a community for you, and you’ll almost certainly make some Jewish friends. Good all around! It is also ok, if you are a single in a Jewish community, to let others know that you don’t have a seder invitation. If you are a guest at someone’s seder table, be sure to read Seven Ways to be a Great Seder Guest.
2. COMMUNITY SEDERS. Many Jewish communities offer a second night seder at synagogues or a hotel for which guests sign up and pay a fee. My own community, Temple Sinai of Oakland, is offering such a seder this year (if you are going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can sign up via this link.) Again, call local Jewish institutions and ask! This can be a more comfortable option if you feel shy about going to a seder at someone’s home.
3. TECHNOLOGY. If there is a group in another place with whom you have had the seder in the past, but you’ve relocated, what about Skype? Talk to your friends about setting up a computer near the table, so you can schmooze with the Jews, too. If Skype is too much tech for you, consider a phone connection via a speakerphone on the distant table. No, it is not traditional or even halakhic, but it will provide an important connection on the holiday. Last year a number of Jews, including rabbis, found ways to use technology to enhance the seder, according to this Wall Street Journal article.
4. INVITE NON-JEWISH FRIENDS. OK, so you are in the middle of nowhere, no Jews around, and Skyping with old friends is not an option. What about getting some matzah, getting out the Haggadah, and inviting some Gentile friends over to share the story of the Exodus?
5. SEDER SOLO. If none of the above will work for you, the real necessities for your seder are some matzah, some wine or grape juice, and a copy of the Haggadah. If you have no Haggadah, a Bible will do. Read the story. Eat unleavened bread. And then begin to make plans for next year, either in Jerusalem, or with some friends.
For an idea how to navigate a seder and not feel so alone, read For a Very Hard Year: The Movie Seder.
9 thoughts on “Seder Tips: Alone for Passover?”
Appreciated your suggestions. I remember my folks would invite lots of non Jews to our family seders in VT so it wasn’t just the four of us around the table. It is something I still enjoy doing now that I make seders for my family.
What a wonderful custom! And thank you for speaking up about it; sometimes people have trouble believing that many observant Jews invite others to the table for seder.
Who was the most interesting guest you’ve had at seder, and why?
Is this “jewish” site actually suggesting Jews to use Skype on a holy day? I came here to see what halachachly I needed to do about Passover. Instead, I was given information on how to not be observant.
Save the scare quotes, Ploni. This is a Jewish site aimed at people who are on the fringes of Jewish community. My purpose is to make Judaism accessible. There are many sites online that provide halakhic information; I never suggested that it was my purpose here.
There are many legitimate ways to be and to do Jewish.
I am in a difficult situation. I have decided to start observing the feasts of G-d starting with Pesach 2018. I am alone living in a Muslim country. No Jewish people live here and I have no friends interested in remembering or entering the feasts. I really don’t know what I might do.
There is a downloadable film called ‘’When Do We Eat?’’ Which is how I have my solo Seder…..it’s a very enjoyable film in its own right, but is also(in my view)a good and instructional Passover snd Seder source. It’s by Salvador Litvak, ‘’The Accidental Talmudist’’ and costs around £5 to buy, if I remember correctly.
May you have a wonderful Passover – will think of you when I watch it, so you will be a ‘guest’ at my Seder 😊
Well, that was utterly useless. A better title would be something to the effect of, ‘Things you thought of and tried over the years to NOT be alone but ended up at step five anyway. Good luck!’