Families and friends gather around the seder table to retell an ancient story of slavery and liberation. Seder night is crucial to our national and religious identity and plays a major role in family traditions and Jewish continuity.
However, participants of all ages – including youngsters – have heard it all before numerous times. How can we truly make this night different?
The fact the Torah figuratively speaks of four sons, all with differing personalities, teaches us an important principle – one size does not fit all. This is hinted to in the verse instructing us to relate the story of the Exodus: “And you shall relate it to your son …” (Exodus, 13:8). Referring to the child in the singular is a hint each participant needs to be engaged in their own way.
Seder night is also a time to speak. In fact, the word Pesach can be read as “Peh Sach”, a talking mouth. It presents a time to talk to one another in person. One of the major effects of slavery was that our forefathers were kept so busy they didn’t have time to think about anything other than their own immediate survival. This was all part of Pharoah’s plan to ensure compliance and forestall any chance of rebellion.
In a world of instant online messaging, we can easily forget the art and importance of conversation. Seder night affords us time to discuss our values and listen to what people at varying ages and stages feel about their Jewish identity. Through engaging each individual around our table, a genuine connection can be built. An investment in seder night is time well spent.
- Rabbi Naftali Schiff is founder and chief executive of