What is Your Favorite Part of the Seder?

Everyone has a part of the Seder they enjoy or find most meaningful. Rabbi Lisa Goldstein’s favorite part of the Seder is tasting the first bite of matzoh. “Now I know it’s really Passover,” says Goldstein, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. “Jews have been eating the same matzoh for thousands of years. “Maybe it didn’t look like this exactly, but this is the actual taste both of slavery and of liberation.”

Goldstein also loves hearing people tell their own stories. Once, she recalls, her family was discussing what it was like to leave a home behind. Her grandmother revealed how she felt when she left Germany in 1937, not knowing what awaited her in America or what might happen in Germany. Goldstein’s Japanese sister-in-law, who had emigrated to the United States with her parents at the age of 16, talked about how hard it was to find her place in a new culture and environment. “She got teary,” Goldstein remembers, “and she’s not generally emotional. Stopping for discussion allowed all of us to have a different level of awareness of what meant leaving meant, to her and to my grandmother, for the Israelites and for us.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs sometimes asks guests to bring an object that represents liberation to them. A guest with limited vision once brought a magnifying glass that allows him to read. An immigrant rights activist brought a poster of a march she was planning. The child of Holocaust survivors brought pictures of family members who survived the war. “We create a second Seder plate with these modern symbols to remind us that liberation is a lifetime pursuit,” says Jacobs, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America.

The afikoman presents an opportunity for tzedakah at the home of Rabbi Ayelet Cohen. Everyone at the table prepares a short description of an organization important to them and brings a card with the name of the organization, exchanges it with someone else, and makes a donation to that organization after the holiday. “It’s an opportunity to educate one another and make a commitment to a new organization,” says Cohen.

Noam Zion also cites a favorite tzedakah-based activity which he saw first at the home of a friend. The afikoman gift is a promise for money after the Seder—with the understanding that 10 percent will go to tzedakah. The kids decide where to donate the funds and parents match their gift. Zion says his friends “turned a self-centered act into a collective concern to make a better world.” His favorite childhood Seder memory? Once, when he opened the door for Elijah, a friend was hiding outside dressed as the prophet.

For Tara Mohr, “creating this huge project and opening my home” resonates more than one specific aspect of the Seder. She enjoys choreographing what parts of the Haggadah to focus on, what the meal will be, what the table will look like, and who will be at the table. “I love that the Passover story has historical dimensions, and in a contemporary context we can look at it as shedding light on our inner states of slavery and freedom. I love that multilayered meaning.”