By Date

Dear Friends,

One of the aspects of Passover that has always fascinated me is that there are myriad versions of Hagaddot that are available. The story of the Exodus and specific rituals such as four glasses of wine and breaking the middle matzah are always the same. The structure of the Seder is, too. (That makes particular sense since the word seder means “order.”)

But within the framework of the general story, the specific rituals and the order of the meal, participants are free to retell the story in meaningful and creative ways. This results in Hagadot that are elaborate and quite traditional and Hagadot that are simple and straightforward. There are Hagadot for vegetarians and Hagadot for spiritual seekers. There are Hagadot for those who who are learned and want to dive deeply into the details of the story and there are Hagadot for those who are new to Jewish tradition or are newly reconnecting to their roots. There is the Maxwell House Hagadah, the Reform Movement’s Baskin Hagadah, and countless more. Each Hagadah is the same. And each Hagadah is different.

In many ways the availability of so many different Hagadot reflects the reading about the four children. Each one connects to their Judaism differently and each needs to be told the story in the manner in which they can best understand and connect to our history.

That is part of the richness of Passover specifically and Judaism in general.

Each year as I prepare for Passover, I read through a number of different Hagadot to see what readings from each might most resonate. As I began putting together the Hagadah for our Second Night Family Seder this year, I did a deeper dive than usual. I spent time looking through countless Hagadot to find readings that might speak to the moment we are in.

I found the process challenging. After all, how does one speak of freedom when over 130 hostages are still being held by Hamas in Gaza? How does one speak of redemption after the explosion of antsemitism we have seen in recent years and especially since October 7th? How does one relate to removing ten drops of wine from our glasses when, on the one hand, many members of our community are currently facing the existential threat of a modern day Pharoah, while on the other we know that countless non-combatants in Gaza are suffering terribly? How does one hold the joy at our historic victory over hate, while facing hate in our own day AND feeling conflicted about some of the ways that hate is being addressed?

Thankfully, I found a number of helpful resources that include current expressions of the longing, fear, joy and angst so many of us feel.

As you prepare for your own seders, I thought it might be helpful to share a few:

A New Guide for Families: 7 Ways to Address October 7 at Your Seder – Kveller

In Every Generation – Shalom Hartman Institute

This Broken Matzah: Pesach 2024 – Bayit

Prayers, Poems, Songs, and Meditations in Response to October 7 – CCAR

Haggadah was produced by Be’eri Print in Kibbutz Be’eri – Bring Them Home Now

I’ve found meaning and inspiration in many of these readings. I hope you do as well.

As we prepare for the arrival of Passover I encourage you to read through some of them. Whether you are planning to lead your Seder or not, I know you will find something comforting, something challenging, and something inspiring to help you spiritually and emotionally prepare for our Festival of Freedom in a year when freedom feels more precious than ever.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen