Why are most Seders inept and boring? It is because people either don’t plan or wait too late. Early preparation involves reading and learning ahead so you will have a good plan for what to include and emphasize this year. And if you don’t lead your Seder, but participate as someone else leads, you can greatly increase your enjoyment if you know your Passover.
Here are some simple plans to have the best Passover ever.
Some people think the Passover Seder should simply be a group reading through most or all of the words of a haggadah. Feel free if you like, but these long Seders are boring. Lawrence Hoffman speaks of “the mistake of leading a Seder as if it is the act of serial reading out loud . . . we all know how boring that can be” (My People’s Passover Haggadah, Vol. 1, pg. 3).
Actually, every year, the leader should select some portions to include and emphasize. He or she might even find extra material to supplement and even music or visuals. If you’re not reading the entire haggadah each year, you can emphasize a few of the numerous themes and stories with variation from year to year.
And the best way to do this expertly is to be reading the haggadah and commentary on the haggadah well before Passover starts. Then you will be able to plan your Seder well.
Step One: Select a haggadah to use this year. I recommend either the Vine of David Haggadah since it integrates Yeshua-faith into the Seder or, if you prefer or have need of a mainstream haggadah, the one with comments by Elie Wiesel since it is beautifully illustrated, readily available, and Wiesel’s comments add beauty and grace.
Step Two: Read a small bit of the haggadah daily over a period of time well before Passover. Don’t try to cram. The haggadah has complicated riddles and midrashes. It is not something to be read lightly.
Step Three: Get yourself a good commentary on the haggadah. Read parts of it, especially on things you don’t understand. I recommend My People’s Passover Haggadah, Volumes 1 and 2 by Lawrence Hoffman and David Arnow. Here is Volume 1. Here is Volume 2. It is far and away has the best commentary from multiple aspects of the haggadah (history, midrash, modern haggadot, theology, Bible, spirituality, translation, Hasidism, halakhah, and feminism). There are shorter commentaries on the haggadah, but I’ve found they don’t explain well. If My People’s Passover Haggadah seems too long to you, keep in mind, you need only read a bit here and there. Over the years you will read more and more.
Step Four: This is optional, but if you want some creative ideas for the Seder, I like David Arnow’s Creating Lively Passover Seders. There is a cheaper Kindle edition, by the way.
Step Five: This is not optional (smile): stay tuned to Messianic Jewish Musings for Passover teaching, tips, guides, history, and more.