15 Ways to Invigorate Your Seder
Passover, perhaps like
no other holiday, captures the diverse spectrum of religious and spiritual
experience, from one extreme to the next.
For the most observant, the Passover Seder is a solemn time, heavily
filled with rules and regulations, rich with layers of customs and meanings,
to be followed to the tee with all the stringency of Passover laws.
For many the Seder is not quite as intense. Rather it is a nice, nostalgic
experience. A time to get together with family and friends. A time to remember
history and celebrate our heritage.
For others the Seder is at best a nuisance and at worst an imposition.
Some wonder what are all these traditions all about; others are skeptical
as to their contemporary relevance; yet others are apathetic to the whole
demonstration, which doesn't carry much significance in their lives; finally,
there are those for whom the entire holiday experience is an unhealthy facade
concealing an otherwise dysfunctional family life.
For many others it's something in between: A night of tradition, which at
times offers some inspiration, but at other times seems hollow and mechanical.
But is there anything more than all the above that makes "this night
different than all other nights of the year?"
However you twist it, the Seder nowadays seems to be lacking a vitality that
should make it indispensable to our lives. Even those that follow every nuance
of the Seder tradition, can appear to be doing so by rote.
After 3319 years since the initial exodus from Egypt, our greatest challenge
today is to make the Passover Seder relevant to our lives.
To address this compelling dilemma, this column has attempted to
plumb the rich spiritual resources of Torah thought which personalize
the Seder experience, rendering it into a powerful psychological/spiritual
journey into our own hearts and souls -- a Seder experience as it was always meant
In previous years we have discussed the personal significance in The Seder Plate, The Four Questions and The Four Cups of Wine.
The heart of the Seder, from beginning to end, is comprised of fifteen
steps -- each another stage in the process of personal and global redemption
which is the essence of Passover -- as defined in detail in The Fifteen Steps of the Seder.
To make these 15 steps even more palatable, below is an exercise that can
help bring the Passover Seder alive.
Remember: Passover in one word is transcendence -- the power to free
ourselves from all forms of constraints that inhibit and constrict our lives.
The fifteen steps of the Seder – which recreates the Exodus from slavery to
freedom – teaches us that transcendence is achieved through fifteen
stages, each reflecting a “personality type” which imparts one piece
of the Passover transcendence story. Together, all fifteen parts weave a
beautiful tapestry, leading us to personal freedom and universal emancipation.
Before the Seder begins, each attendee should choose one of the “personality
types” listed below corresponding to the fifteen Seder steps. When your respective
stage in the Seder comes around, communicate to the group the “personality
type” you have chosen to portray.
Be creative and find
ways to express your “personality” – role-play, tell a story, or act out the
part. Engage the group and invite them to comment – and together, personalize
the fifteen steps and bring the Seder alive.
(If you have less than
fifteen Seder attendees, each person can play more than one role. If you have
more attendees, more than one person can play one personality type.)
1. Kadesh: The Sanctifier: Distinguishes
between the holy and the mundane.
U'rchatz: The Cleaner: Cleanses the mind,
body and heart of clutter and distractions in life.
Karpas: The Dipper: Dips and sublimates
the material (vegetable) in the saltwater/tears that come from remembering
a more spiritual state.
Yachatz: The Breaker: Breaks his subjective
self to see a broader perspective.
Maggid: The Storyteller: Relates the story
of life, in dialogue form.
Rachtzah: The Washer: Submerges the mind,
body and soul, as a prelude to the next steps.
Motzi: The Earthy One: Blesses and recognizes that even
things earthy (bread) are heavenly.
Matzah: The Selfless One: Does not allow
the ego (dough) to rise and always remains selfless.
Maror: The Empathizer: Feels another's bitterness and
10. Korech: The Binder: Sandwiches selflessness and empathy (steps 8-9) into one
experience called life.
Orech: The Implementer: Sets the table and ensures that that
we have all the tools to eat the "meal" of life.
12. Tzafun: The Knower of Secrets: Reveals that which is hidden – the unconscious.
13. Beirach: The Gracious One: Blesses and acknowledges life’s gifts.
14. Hallel: The Praiser: Sings praise and places complete trust in G-d's hands.
15. Nirtzah: The Acceptor: Not action – but complete surrender to being accepted
and received by G-d.
For a more elaborate description on these 15 personality types and stages,
go to The Original Fifteen Step Program.
* * *
Question of the Week: How did you
experience Passover as a child? And how do you experience
a question for future weeks.