Making the Seder Count

US Navy 030417-N-8273J-010 Crewmembers read fr...
US Navy 030417-N-8273J-010 Crewmembers read from the Passover Hagaddah (prayer book) during the Passover Seder dinner in the wardroom aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We gather once a year around the seder table to eat matzah, to tell the Exodus story, and to fulfill the commandments. At some tables, it’s just that: a traditional trip down memory lane. But if we are going to take the words of the sages seriously, to rise from the table feeling as if we ourselves have been delivered from Egypt, if we want to make this experience count for something, we might want to think outside the limits of the bare minimum.

One thing we can do is to ask the “wicked child’s” question over and over again as we read through the Haggadah: What does this have to do with US? The sages criticize that child because of the way he asks the  question: he separates himself from the community. But what if we were to ask the same question in a different spirit, to say, “Where do we fit into this story?” Then more questions will open up:

  • When have I been a slave?
  • Am I now a slave to someone or something?
  • Have I enslaved someone?
  • Do I benefit from slave labor?
  • What is slavery? Does it still exist?
  • What is real freedom?
  • What are the plagues in my life?
  • Who is not welcome to come and eat at my table? Why?
  • Who is hungry within 5 miles of my house? 10 miles?

and the biggie:

• When I rise from the table, what am I personally going to do about my answers to any of those questions?

What questions are you going to ask around your seder table?  How will you make your seder count?

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

4 thoughts on “Making the Seder Count”

  1. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this outstanding blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and
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    1. Francisca, I’m so glad the blog is useful to you! I’m considering moving over to so that I can have a donate button, but in the meantime, I’d be honored if you simply donated money or time to your local food bank, or some other place that helps people who are suffering.
      Are there topics you’d like to see me tackle on the blog? Questions you have about holidays or life cycle events or the other basics of Jewish life? A line in the Bible that’s always bugged you? A new topic is always a treat!

  2. Rabbi, I’d like to see you blog about what it means to “welcome the stranger.” While Passover is of course a Jewish holiday, I also see it as the Jewish Thanksgiving, and a great opportunity to invite friends of other religions to share the seder with us. And on a related matter, I have several friends who are Jews of color, and they are repeatedly stared at when they walk into a new synagogue, or people ask them silly questions about when did they convert. News flash: not all Jews are white, and isn’t it kind of rude to ask when someone converted (if in fact they did)? So, how can we as a community make Jews of color feel more included? I’ve begun using some multi-cultural readings at Passover, but there have to be other things that can be done!!!

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