5 Steps to Take BEFORE Your Seder
Get the most out of your Seder.
Here are five crucial steps to take before your Passover Seder gets underway to get the most out of your Seder.
1. Make sure others have a Seder to enjoy too.
At the beginning of the Seder, we declare “Whoever is hungry, come and eat, whoever is in need, let him come and join in celebrating the holiday of Passover.” You can invite guests who have no other place to go and make sure the needy in your communities receive an invitation.
It’s traditional to donate funds to the needy to ensure that all Jews have the wherewithal to celebrate Passover. This special Passover fund is called Ma’ot Chitim, or “The Portion of Wheat” fund, because it ensures that no one is forced to go without matzah on Passover due to lack of funds.
Communities start collecting for Ma’ot Chitim a month before Passover; funds are usually distributed a few days before the holiday. (If you are starting your giving late, don’t worry: Ma’ot Chitim is always welcome!) Ask a local rabbi or Jewish organization for ways to contribute before the Seder begins.
2. Review the Passover story.
The central mitzvah of the Passover Seder is to teach the story to our children. Before the Seder gets underway, review the story and look into supplementary material that helps bring it to life (Aish.com has some great material). Familiarize yourself with the events of the exodus from Egypt so that you feel confident discussing it at your Seder.
3. Heighten the anticipation.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the days before Passover, when there’s so much to clean and cook and prepare. (Each year instead of singing “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt”, my kids sing “We were slaves to Mommy in the kitchen.”) But the days leading up to Passover are a time of increased spirituality, as well.
There’s a curious tradition: we don’t eat matzah the day before Passover. (Some Jews even have a custom of refraining from eating matzah for an entire month before Passover.) The reason is so that the taste of matzah will feel new to us at the Seder and to heighten our enjoyment of matzah and what it represents. Remembering that Passover is meant to be something beautiful to anticipate can help keep us in the spirit of the holiday as we prepare.
Another pre-Passover tradition is buying new clothes; this has a visceral effect of getting us excited about Passover, even amid the work of getting ready. Another Jewish tradition is for husbands to buy their wives a gift before Passover. Ever since my kids were small, I’ve taken this beautiful custom one step further, and bought them special Passover presents to heighten their anticipation of the holiday’s start.
4. Run through the Haggadah and plan your seder.
Put some effort into planning what you want to say at your Seder. Think about giving each guest an article to read beforehand or a topic to prepare. You don’t have to prepare lengthy remarks. Brief observations and ideas can spark discussion and interest and transform the Seder into something even more meaningful.
The Passover Seder is a carefully-designed set of prayers, songs and rituals meant to help us relive the exodus from Egypt. It’s a chance to learn and discuss; eating doesn’t come until much later in the evening, long past the time when many of us are used to dining.
Arriving at the Seder hungry for dinner is a recipe for crankiness. Enjoy a substantial pre-Seder snack. This can help keep us satisfied and focused on what’s truly important: telling the awesome story of our people’s flight from slavery to freedom.
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