Seder Traditions?

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Jrosemary
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Seder Traditions?

Post #1

Post by Jrosemary »

Sooooo . . .

We've all had enough time to recover from our Purim hangovers. (Actually, I only drank sparkling grape juice, but the sugar rush did the trick. No, really!) Now it's time to start thinking Passover.

So what are your Seder traditions? What kind of Haggadah do you like to use? Do you like big Seders or little ones? Do you like to host or be a guest? Do you have any cool Seder traditions to share?

This is also a good place to ask questions about the Seder--presumably we can help each other out. O:)

Our first night Seder is pretty big--we had just under twenty people last year. We use a piece-meal Haggadah: everyone gets a binder crammed with pages from a variety of Haggadahs (in English and Hebrew), plus relevant quotes from people like Martin Luther King Jr. (we open with one of his comments on the Exodus story.) The structure of our Seder is fairly traditional, but we draw from mostly liberal Haggadahs. And yeah, we have Miriam's cup along with Elijah's. ;)

Our Seder is vegetarian, so we include cheese and deviled eggs and other dairy foods that aren't traditionally part of most Seders. Our rabbi has ok'd tofu as kosher-for-Passover, so no one escapes tofu dishes. :roll:

For second night, I go to my synagogue's Seder. In fact, I'm on the committee that's in charge of putting it together. (Sigh.)

Ok--everyone else's turn!

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JoeyKnothead
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Post #2

Post by JoeyKnothead »

If I'm not derailing the thread, I'd like to know what Seder means to the rhetorical you, the individual.

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Post #3

Post by Jrosemary »

joeyknuccione wrote:If I'm not derailing the thread, I'd like to know what Seder means to the rhetorical you, the individual.
There's not much of a thread to derail yet, lol!

Seriously, that's a great question. Two of the quotations we read at my Seder sum up the meaning of Passover for me.

(I guess I should define my terms: Passover--Pesach in Hebrew--is the spring festival in which Jews celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. The Seder is the special dinner Jews have on the first night of Passover, which reenacts that Exodus: the idea of the Seder is to make each participant feel as if she, personally, has come out of Egypt. Meanwhile, many Jews, especially those outside of Israel, also make a second night Seder.)

Ok, back to those two quotations. The first one is from Martin Luther King Jr. We use it to open our Seder:
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom. There is something deep within the very soul of man that reaches out for Canaan. Men cannot be satisfied with Egypt.
That sums up the whole point of Passover--we move from slavery to freedom. (In the Torah, God identifies himself with this movement: "I am HaShem your God, who brought you out of Egypt.") At our Seder, we ask everyone at the table two questions: What are you freed from? What are you freed for?

The other quotation comes from Herman Wouk's This Is My God, a book that serves as an excellent introduction to Judaism in general and Modern Orthodoxy in particular. In this passage, he talks about why Jews give up chametz (all sorts of leavening) during Pesach. Only matzah (aka matzo) bread is allowed:
Herman Wouk wrote:The bread of freedom is a hard bread. The contrast between bread and matzo possibly points the contrast between the lush Nile civilization that the Jews left behind them on the first Passover and the gray rubbled desert in which they came into their identity. The Bible tells how they complained to Moses that they could not forget the meat, the cucumbers, the onions that their tasmakers had fed them on the ramparts of Rameses. The whiplash from time to time had been unpleasant, of course. But that memory had faded rapidly as the scars healed in the dry desert air. The memory of their lost security remained.

Economists knows that, contrary to the popular impression, slaves do not work hard . . . Take away a man's rights in himself, and he becomes dull and sluggish, wily and evasive, a master of the arts of avoiding responsibility and expending little energy. The whip is no answer to this universal human reaction. There is no answer to it . . . the slave's life is a dog's life, degraded, but not wearying and--for a broken spirit--not unpleasant.

The generation of Jews that Moses led into the desert collapsed into despair and panic over and over in moments of crisis. Broken by slavery, they could not shake free of improvidence, cowardice and idol worship. All the men who had been slaves in Egypt had to die in the desert, and a new generation had to take up their arms and their religion before the Jews could cross the Jordan.

Leavening, then, would represent in this image the corruption of slave life. But the symbol has ramifications. The rabbis called the passions of man "the yeast in the dough." Leaven is a strange and pervasive substance. It is alive; it is immortal; it is impalpably everywhere in the air; it ferments grain into bread, and grapes into wine, it is the sour whitish paradigm of life itself. For one week in springtime, in the time of seeding and growth, when the Jews celebrate their independence, they cut all trace of leavening from their lives. No one has ever wholly accounted for this vibrant symbol. That it has had power over the imagination of Israel through all time, everyone knows.
It always amazes me that, according to the Torah, a generation of Jews died in the desert because they could not rise to the challenges of freedom; they were too broken from slavery. But that's part of Passover: acknowledging that liberty doesn't come easy or, in the words of a right-leaning bumper sticker, "Freedom ain't free." I'm not very right wing, but I heartily agree with that sentiment.

If you can rise to the challenge of freedom--and I think that's an ongoing process for most of us--then the challenge is to put that freedom to good use; to use it to help heal the world. And that, to me, is what the Seder is all about.
If you can`t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It`s not safe out here. It`s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires, both subtle and gross. But it`s not for the timid.

~Q in STAR TREK: TNG, Q Who

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JoeyKnothead
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Post #4

Post by JoeyKnothead »

From Post 3:
Jrosemary wrote:
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom. There is something deep within the very soul of man that reaches out for Canaan. Men cannot be satisfied with Egypt.
That you would quote a famous Christian indicates at least you, and likely most Jewish folks don't play "religious politics", but employ reason as best you can, regardless of its source. I find that quite refreshing in this day and age.
Jrosemary wrote: It always amazes me that, according to the Torah, a generation of Jews died in the desert because they could not rise to the challenges of freedom; they were too broken from slavery. But that's part of Passover: acknowledging that liberty doesn't come easy or, in the words of a right-leaning bumper sticker, "Freedom ain't free." I'm not very right wing, but I heartily agree with that sentiment.
That is a powerful notion, and I see it played out among African-Americans, and even prisoners. We'll discount those that play on this angle.
Jrosemary wrote: If you can rise to the challenge of freedom--and I think that's an ongoing process for most of us--then the challenge is to put that freedom to good use; to use it to help heal the world. And that, to me, is what the Seder is all about.
Without detracting from the events leading up to it, it even works as metaphor. Bad upbrining? Work to overcome. Bad job? Work to overcome. Problem? Work to overcome. Again, not to detract, but if these ancient folks could overcome, surely "little ol' me" can.

As one who hates drama as a genre, I've never been able to see the real message behind some of these religious notions. I've always took them to be "poor me" stories. Now I see they are "poor me, but I overcame, and you can too" stories.

I am really learning a lot about the Jewish religion, and people, on this website. If that's all I've accomplished it's been time well spent.

Great Star Trek quote by the way! I love to hate Q.

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Post #5

Post by Jrosemary »

joeyknuccione wrote:From Post 3:
Jrosemary wrote:
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom. There is something deep within the very soul of man that reaches out for Canaan. Men cannot be satisfied with Egypt.
That you would quote a famous Christian indicates at least you, and likely most Jewish folks don't play "religious politics", but employ reason as best you can, regardless of its source. I find that quite refreshing in this day and age.
The African American community has historically identified with the Exodus story--and therefore they have lots of great songs and commentary on it. One time my synagogue had a joint Seder with a black Baptist church; I didn't get to go, but everyone who was there said it was a great experience.

Meanwhile, every Seder I've ever attended, I think, has included singing 'Go Down Moses.' Oh, and I actually found that quote from Martin Luther King Jr. in a Haggadah.

(A Haggadah is a book Jews read from during the Seder. There are tons of different ones, ranging from very Orthodox to very liberal, but they're all set up more or less the same way and they all cover much of the same ground.)

Something else worth considering: any given liberal synagogue will have Christians or other non-Jews attending. A Catholic friend of mine attends my synagogue with her Jewish husband. She makes a first night Seder and a second night Seder every year--all that work and it's technically not even her holiday! But she makes it her own. O:)

joeyknuccione wrote:
Jrosemary wrote: It always amazes me that, according to the Torah, a generation of Jews died in the desert because they could not rise to the challenges of freedom; they were too broken from slavery. But that's part of Passover: acknowledging that liberty doesn't come easy or, in the words of a right-leaning bumper sticker, "Freedom ain't free." I'm not very right wing, but I heartily agree with that sentiment.
That is a powerful notion, and I see it played out among African-Americans, and even prisoners. We'll discount those that play on this angle.
Jrosemary wrote: If you can rise to the challenge of freedom--and I think that's an ongoing process for most of us--then the challenge is to put that freedom to good use; to use it to help heal the world. And that, to me, is what the Seder is all about.
Without detracting from the events leading up to it, it even works as metaphor. Bad upbrining? Work to overcome. Bad job? Work to overcome. Problem? Work to overcome. Again, not to detract, but if these ancient folks could overcome, surely "little ol' me" can.
Thinking of the Exodus story as a metaphor works just fine--I think we have to, to some degree, or we wouldn't be able to relate the story to our lives today. Yes, we want to feel like we escaped slavery in Egypt . . . but for the Seder to do it's job, we have to know how to apply that feeling of liberation to our every-day lives.

(And, just to be clear, I don't think it's necessary to believe the Exodus story is literally true. I love it as myth; I don't know how much of it is history.)
joeyknuccione wrote:As one who hates drama as a genre, I've never been able to see the real message behind some of these religious notions. I've always took them to be "poor me" stories. Now I see they are "poor me, but I overcame, and you can too" stories.

I am really learning a lot about the Jewish religion, and people, on this website. If that's all I've accomplished it's been time well spent.
I think you've accomplished a whole lot more--your posts have taught me a great deal. O:)
joeyknuccione wrote:Great Star Trek quote by the way! I love to hate Q.
Lol! I love Q--and I think he's quite profound in that quote. It just may be that G-d could give us either safety or wonder, but not both. I'm thinking those two may be mutually exclusive. (It's a working theory.)

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