This is a guest column by Rabbi Da-vid Rosenthal, from Aish Minnesota.
Here are some simple tips that may help enhance your Pesach (Passover) Seder:
With life – you reap what you plant. The same thing applies to a Seder – the more preparation you put in, the more meaningful the Seder will be. Start reading articles, writing down questions and thoughts. A good question is worth it’s weight in Matzah ball soup and can stipulate interesting discussion at the Seder table. Check out some great articles here.
2. Before the Seder – eat and sleep
Make sure both you and your guests eat a late afternoon meal. When you’re hungry, you’ve already got a strike against you. It’s hard to care about the Haggadah when you can barely hear over the grumbling in your stomach. Also if you can manage to get a nap, it makes a big difference, as the Seder can often go late into the night.
Make sure to buy prizes to hand out to participants at the Seder for good questions and answers. This works really well with kids (kosher for Pesach chocolates and candies do great), but surprisingly I have found adults respond well to it as well. It obviously depends on your crowd, but the idea is, generate more participation through positive encouragement.
Make sure to read the Haggadah in a language you understand. It is not meant to be mindlessly recited, rather understood and internalized. Try taking turns for everyone to read, and if you randomly call on people, it will encourage everyone to follow along – they may be called on next!
5. Follow the laws
The laws on the night have been especially catered to help you experience the true spirit of the night. For instance, no one should pour their own glasses (we are all Royalty on Seder night), eat the Matzah while leaning to the left etc. By following and understanding the halachos of the night, you will gain a more meaningful Seder.
6. Type of Haggadahs
Depending on your crowd, you may want to think about what Haggadahs you make available. For a beginners crowd, it may be better for everyone to share the same type of Haggadah so that everyone can find the place easily. For a more advanced crowd, it may be better to have varied Haggadahs so you can share different ideas from the different commentaries.
7. Invite interesting guests
Think about inviting people to your Seder that may have a lot to share on the topic of freedom. A good guest can change the whole dynamic of your Seder.
8. Ask people to prepare
Ask people to come with a question or two for the table. It’s good if the whole table can feel involved, and it not be totally lead by one person.
9. Questions questions questions
Make sure that you have a whole list of questions up your sleeves (you don’t have to have the answers) about Pesach. The night is all about getting people engaged in the topic, and there is no better way to do that than with a question (if you email me, I have a list of about 10 great questions you can have). If you have a large group of people, get everyone to talk to their neighbor about the question and give their own answer – that way everyone can feel like they are participating, without it taking all night!
Buy props to liven up the night – tomatoe juice for the plague of blood, toys frogs, whips, toy animals – it adds to the night, no matter what age your participants!
Lastly, add your own ideas to how you can make your Seder more meaningful and enjoyable for everyone!