Bari Weiss and Alana Newhouse
What are the origins of the Seder?
The first mention of the holiday that kicks off with a Seder appears in the book of Leviticus, where it is referred to as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, owing to the fact that when the ancient Israelites left Egypt they hadn’t enough time to let their dough rise before fleeing.
It became a *thing* around 600 BCE when the holidays of two parts of the ancient Jewish community merged–a holiday celebrated by the nomadic herders and the one celebrated by the farmers–at the orders of King Josiah. You can read more about the historical origins of Passover here:
Through Jewish history, our ancestors have found ways to celebrate Passover even in the most dire circumstances. One thing that might be extremely meaningful this year is to share the stories of other seders from hard times. Here are some links with powerful testimonies:
Seders during the Shoah:
Natan Sharansky’s seder in the punishing cell:
But: Why? Why did those who came before us find ways to celebrate Passover even in dire circumstances? What’s the reason it’s been so important for so many people in challenging moments? Read Alana’s New York Times’s Sunday Review essay about it:
This year, as so many times before us, things are imperfect. You’re not going to have the perfect ingredients. Maybe you won’t even have matzo ball soup. The zoom will lag. You don’t have the nice plates. You might not even have a seder plate!
But the material things are the least important. Always, but especially this year.
Think about the lights on in every Jewish home doing this. Some of the sadness of not being together can be softened when we think about the fact that so many people, especially young people, are being asked to do something they’ve never done before and figuring out how to make it their own.
Think about the fact that, even if you are alone in your apartment, that Judaism is a conversation across generations. They are with you now. This is among the most beautiful expressions of that idea, from Rav Soloveichik:
Remember: It doesn’t matter *how* you do it. It matters *that* you do it. Think of the seder as a charm necklace. Each generation adds their charm. This year we will add ours. But what about the practical? To Zoom or not to Zoom?
This is an excellent guide to the practical:
If you want to Zoom, here is a good how-to:
Perhaps you are physically alone this year for the seder. Here is an essay by a writer, like you, who is doing seder alone:
And here’s another, by Dovid Baveshkin, who once did a seder alone by choice.
But there are tons of seders you can join! Among them is One Table, which is connecting people to seders all over:
Russ and Daughters is having the second night seder with Elvis Costello:
JewBelong is having a second night Seder as well!
Do you need a Haggadah? No problem. Download Tablet’s gorgeous new Haggadah here:
Here are a ton of downloadable Haggadot of pretty much every denomination:
Sutton Place Community Haggadah:
SEDER 2020 Resources and matching platform by One Table:
A beautiful seder supplement from Rabbi Avi Weiss, that includes the special Dayenu I mentioned:
If you don’t have a Haggadah, pull out the Tanach. Pull out the Exodus. LINK TO SEFARIA EXODUS STORY (Start from Ch. 12: Verse 14, describes the holiday).
A cool idea: hide the Afikomen in history (either global history or your family’s history). Play 20 questions to “find” it.
Food: Remember, the food is symbolic. You can make a perfect haroset out of a smashed Snickers bar…
Here is a great little list of the basics:
Do you need ideas for creating a simple Passover menu? Here’s a wonderful list from the cookbook writer Leah Koenig:
P.S. Read this. About frogs. It’s awesome: