“Ok, let’s get through this, let’s get through this, let’s get through this. Ok, let’s eat Matzah ball soup.”
Is this how your typical Passover Seder feels? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, on Wednesday night, about 50 people met downstairs at Sixth & I Synagogue to learn how to make their Seders more meaningful with the assistance of author and scholar Noam Zion of The Shalom Hartman Institute.
Full of energy and obviously passionate about his subject, Zion reminded the audience that the Haggadah is not a prayer book nor is it the Torah; it does not exist to be recited, but rather, it’s meant to start a conversation. That conversation is the real measure of a meaningful and successful Seder.
So how to facilitate a good conversation? This requires no special rabbinical skills — according to Zion, what is needed are the skills of a good talk show host. The host has to invite the right guests, ask good questions, listen closely, manage the flow of conversation, involve participants, and know when to press forward.
But what if this means the Haggadah isn’t recited in full? Zion claims this isn’t important. He compares the Haggadah he published to a menu — “You can’t order the entire menu!” Rather, you pick and choose parts that will serve you well.
To get things started, Zion recommends prompting a discussion of modern day slavery. Have we — as humans — really escaped from Egypt? What about economic slavery (yours truly had to bite his tongue on this one) or slavery in Afghanistan?
And then your talk show is off to the races.
The event was co-sponsored by DC Minyan, DC Beit Midrash, Rosh Pina, the Shalom Hartman Institute, and Sixth & I Synagogue.