Come with questions

Preparing to welcome all of your guests

Come with questions 2024 image

The Passover seder, which occurs on the first night of Passover (and again on the second night for many American Jews), is an elaborate ritual filled with prayers, songs, and special foods that help us retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

It is also the night to ask questions. The seder is meant to be an educational experience. So, if you have invited people who have not attended a seder before, tell them to come with questions.

You can also help prepare them for an evening unlike any other.

Review logistics . Explain that guests will arrive at the designated time and the seder will start a little bit later. Just as with any gathering, tell them who is coming and assure them that they are welcome to sit anywhere at the table (unless you plan to make place cards). Depending on the length of your seder, explain how long it will be until you eat dinner. There is also no problem with putting veggies and dips on the table to snack on during the first part of the seder. You can also assure guests that they are welcome to participate in all the rituals. Try to estimate the ending time.

Invite your guests to bring something . It is traditional to sit on a pillow during the seder. Guests could bring their own or they could bring something like flowers. Explain enough about the holiday so they do not show up with a coffee cake for dessert. If they have small children, tell them it is OK to bring pajamas because it could be a late night.

Tell them what the seder means to you . Explain if you are using special family dishes or your grandmother's candlesticks. Discuss what foods you are excited for them to try and that you won't be offended if they don't love gefilte fish.

Let them know that there will be a lot of explanations at the seder because that is the point of the seder- to teach others and remind ourselves of the lessons to be learned year after year. Their questions will only enhance the experience. You can send your guests links from myjewishlearning.com, bimbam.com, 18Doors.com, or other sites you find useful. There is plenty of information out there, but no need to overwhelm them. They don't have to do a research project to experience your seder.

Explain that the Passover story does not end with the splitting of the sea. Passover is linked to the next big holiday on the calendar, Shavuot, which occurs seven weeks later. On Shavuot, we celebrate the giving of the Torah. On Passover, we don't just celebrate freedom, we celebrate our freedom to live by the laws of the Torah instead of by Pharoah's laws. One of the laws of the Torah is to give tzedakah (charity), which is traditional to do before each holiday. You can remind your guests of this practice and invite them to do so before the seder.

Tell your guests that you don't want them to be shy; you want them to learn . Teach everyone a bit of Talmud. In Pirke Avot 2:6, it says "A shy person does not learn."

So, invite your guests to try the food, sing the songs, partake in the rituals, and come with all of their questions.

Rabbi Reni Dickman is Executive Vice President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and Senior Educator of JUF.

 


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