Seder recalls roots of Judaism in Exodus as Passover starts

A typical Seder plate ready for Passover. In this case, Romaine lettuce leaves stand in for the “bitter herbs.” Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.SUNSET FRIDAY, APRIL 6: The intense search for chametz has ended and Jews worldwide begin the ancient storytelling ritual of the Passover Seder tonight.

Since ReadTheSpirit was founded five years ago, we have published many stories about Passover.
Care to read more about the relationship between cleaning out the chametz and Passover? In 2009, Judy Gruen wrote from the perspective of a Jewish Mom. (Jewish families typically search for thought-provoking articles to spark discussion during a Seder—so we are including links today to a number of our inspiring Passover stories from past years.)

During Passover, Jewish families plan to host or to attend at least one Seder and usually more than one. There’s ample opportunity, since the Seder is celebrated on the first two evenings of the week-long Passover festival. Some Jews enjoy the complex preparations for Passover, while others may dread them—but whatever the case, virtually all of the faithful sit down together and participate. Studies show that the Seder is one of the most universally observed traditions by Jewish men and women.

Handing down Jewish history was the theme of this story with poet Dinah Berland.

A typical Seder table is set with the finest china, crystal glasses and sparkling silverware, an indication of the meal’s utmost importance. As guests take their seats, an elaborate spread of symbolic foods accompanies the evening’s readings, prayers and lively discussions. A text known as the Haggadah directs the evening’s activities through stories, songs and questions to consider. Each morsel of food on the table is carefully chosen, too. For example, bitter herbs symbolize the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. Parents usually are thinking of their kids at the Seder. Their vital role is to ask questions that prompt religious discussion, but their patience often wears thin. (Kids might like this YouTube video by the Maccabeats, featuring the song “Best Seder in the USA” sung to the tune of Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.”)

The possibilities for expanding a Seder are part of our 2008 interview with “The Adventure Rabbi.

In the weeks leading up to Passover, Jews cleanse their homes of chametz (leavened foods, made from one of five types of grain). Families are forbidden from possessing or consuming these substances during Passover. The ancient story of Exodus tells that Moses led the Jewish people to leave Egypt so fast that their bread was not able to rise. Jews were commanded to continue to observe this event with “the festival of unleavened bread.”

Families do feel free to adapt these symbols and stories, as Jewish author Debra Darvick explains.

One form of cultural adaptations, used for centuries, is the Yiddish language, which Yiddish expert Neal Karlen describes as “an invisible homeland with unmarked boundaries” for the Jewish people.

In an interview with Neal Karlen about the importance of Yiddish, the author talks about the enduring importance of the language—and ReadTheSpirit includes some delightful video clips as well.

Passover recalls the “passing over” of the spirit of the Lord during the 10th plague of Egypt, when all first-borns were slaughtered except those in houses whose doorposts were marked with lamb’s blood. After this final plague, the Pharaoh released the Israelites from slavery and bondage in Egypt. Depending on a Jew’s location, Passover today is observed for seven or eight days, with the first and last days requiring abstention from work.

Because Jews were freed from slavery—and escaped from the Paraoh’s later wrath—many Jewish men and women teach that the Passover is a time for peacemaking. This inspiring 2011 story by Brenda Rosenberg describes how she has adapted an entire Seder table setting with peacemaking themes.

On the second night of Passover, Jews begin the Counting of the Omer, which leads to the next Jewish festival—Shavuot. As Passover recalls Jews’ physical freedom from slavery, Shavuot commemorates the spiritual freedom they received when presented with the Torah on Mount Sinai.

Want more on the relationship between freedom and Passover? In 2009, Rabbi Bob Alper—a popular writer and stand-up comedian—wrote a moving story called The Mezuzzah.

FEEL FREE TO PRINT AND SHARE ANY OF OUR STORIES FOR PASSOVER! We welcome your distribution of these stories. Please tell friends that you found these stories at

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