In a few days we will have the opportunity to journey from a narrow place to one of expansiveness. This year, consider a few creative additions to your Seder–ways to personalize it and invite group discussion.

The ORacle, April 2012

Discussion on the theme of slavery: What do you think is the most important lesson we learn from re-experiencing our redemption from slavery in Egypt? Do you think the world is moving in the direction of greater freedom or greater oppression? Is the vision of a world with substantially less oppression realistic or hopelessly messianic?

Miriam’s Cup: An empty cup is placed alongside Elijah’s cup. Each attendee person pours a bit of his/her water into the cup, symbolizing Miriam’s life-giving well that followed the wandering Israelites. With this custom, we recognize that women are equally integral to the continued survival of the Jewish community. Through a social action lens, the pouring of each person’s water symbolizes individual responsibility to respond to issues of social injustice, and that together, change can take place.

Orange on the Seder Plate: This custom comes from Susannah Heschel. Heschel came across a feminist Haggadah with a ritual to place a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (“there’s as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for bread on the Seder plate”).

At the next Passover, Heschel placed an orange on the Seder plate to eat as a gesture of solidarity with marginalized Jews.

Bread on the Seder plate renders everything chometz, suggesting that being lesbian is being transgressive, violating Judaism. Instead, Heschel felt an orange was suggestive of the fruitfulness for all Jews when gays and lesbians contribute to Jewish life. In addition, each orange had a few seeds to spit out – repudiating the homophobia that poisons too many Jews.

Somehow, a patriarchal maneuver occurred. Now the story circulates that a MAN said that a woman belongs on the bimah as much as an orange on the Seder plate. Heschel’s idea, were attributed to a man, and the affirmation of gays and lesbians was erased. Heschel asks, “Isn’t that precisely what’s happened historically to women’s ideas?”

Fair Trade Chocolate or Cocoa Beans: The Fair Trade movement promotes economic partnerships based on equality, justice and sustainable environmental practices. We can make consumer choices that promote economic choices. Fair Trade chocolate on the Seder plate reminds us that forced labor is still with us today.

The Four Children: Participants can discuss with which of the four children we most identify, followed by consideration of which populations are currently “unable to ask.” Consider this new set of four children:

  • One who sees the pain of others and works to relieve suffering.
  • One who cares only about themselves.
  • One who cares only about other Jews but not other populations.
  • One who doesn’t know where to begin.

Enjoy creating your own new Seder additions, Chag Sameach!

Rabbi Jessica Kessler Marshall