Preparing for Passover, Pt. 1

Passover is no simple holiday. It is itself like a tree of life, with branches going in many directions. Slavery and freedom go off into one set of limbs and shoots while redemption, remembrance, atonement, death, life, law, worship, judgment, grace, story, miracle, history, and many more branches go off in other directions.

In order to prepare for Passover, it is a great thing to study and muse on it for weeks in advance.

Most are familiar with the basics. Read Exodus 12. Get out a Passover Haggadah. Familiarize yourself. If it helps, watch the old Charlston Heston flick, The Ten Commandments, from 1956. Or watch the 1998 animated feature, The Prince of Egypt.

You will find that studying Passover every year will help you grow and appreciate the holiday more. You will never exhaust all of the themes and concepts of Passover.

One way to discover this is to simply open a Haggadah and start reading. Most people, even if you’ve celebrated Passover, will find the Haggadah about 80% incomprehensible. Why is Moses not mentioned, except once in passing? Why does the Seder have all these steps? Who are the four children? Who are the rabbis having a discussion and why? What do these things have to do with the story of Exodus 12?

The Haggadah is not what many people think it will be when they begin observing Passover. It is not merely the story told in creative ways with symbols added to make the night memorable. The Haggadah is a conversation. It is a conversation incomprehensible to those who have not lived or who do not take the time to learn Jewish tradition.

If you want to study Passover and you are beyond the basics, ready to delve deeper than Exodus 12-15, then here are a number of books I’d recommend. Any one of these would do for a study guide and you will want to get more in years to come:

1. The Schocken Passover Haggadah – This volume explains the history and meaning of the Haggadah with notes. It is somewhat advanced, but it will definitely teach you a lot. It can be found used on ( I think it is out of print.

2. Creating Lively Passover Seders – This is not exactly what the title describes. Really it is a commentary on different themes in the Passover Haggadah. It is probably the best explanation of Passover themes in the Haggadah available. It is available new at (

3. A Different Night, The Family Participation Haggadah – This is a fun book. It is a Haggadah. But it is also a commentary and resource book with too many ideas to try them all. It is available new at (

The point is: study for this year’s Passover. Don’t simply let it come up on you again and still be in the dark, like the Egyptians on the next to last plague.

Keep checking here, as we will continue with this series and help you study and prepare.

Next part in the series: “Preparing for Passover: Four Questions?”



About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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