Seder Conversation Starters from Rabbi Saroken

  1. What does freedom mean to you?  Go around the table and offer one sentence beginning with “Freedom is…”
  2. The karpas (greens or even potatoes count!) that are dipped in salt water, remind us of the tears of our ancestors.   What did you shed tears over this year?
  3. Breaking the matzah represents the brokenness in our world and our commitment to repair it.  What’s one thing that you might do or get involved with this year to bring healing to a broken world?
  4. The charoset represents the mortar that held the bricks together of the buildings built by the Israelite slaves. What held you together this year?
  5. We retell the Passover story in each generation.  What do you want the next generation to remember about how you responded to today’s challenges?
  6. The Hagaddah inspires us to use our imagination.  To experience our ancestors journey as if it were ours; to imagine ourselves as slaves, at the sea, in the wilderness of the unknown… what parts of this story can you connect with now, more than ever?
  7. The Haggadah concludes with a hopeful aspiration for the coming year.  We say “next year in Jerusalem”.  What are you hopeful about right now?  How do you imagine that our world and our lives might be changed for the better after the pandemic?  What would you like for people to hold onto?

Journal prompt suggestions from Writer-in-Residence Barbara Roswell!

Grab a pen and paper, read the prompt, and set a ten-minute timer on your phone. You’ll surprise yourself with what appears on your paper in a short ten minutes! (And, of course, you can always keep writing….)  There is no right answer, no “right” way to do this; if your mind is drawn to something other than the prompt, follow its lead.  If you get “stuck,” imagine a friendly reader who asks, What else? What did that look, taste, feel, sound, like?  What did that remind you of? Tell me more….

  1. The seder is a time of asking questions.  Beyond the traditional four questions, what question is on your heart today? Try writing for ten minutes, making each sentence you write a question.
  2. Think about a time that you or someone in your family came out of a “narrow place.”  What was that like?  What helped them to “leave Egypt”?  Is there a story that you would like friends or family to know that perhaps has not been told before?
  3. Many of us had to put our usual Passover traditions on hold, or to transform them into new “Zoom seder” formats.  Think back over the past year.  What was an unexpected gift, a new ritual you enjoyed, a “blessing in disguise”?   You might imagine this writing as a letter to a parent or grandparent – or child or grandchild — telling them about the “Zeders” of 2020 and 2021.
  4. Passover, of course, tells the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom.  Today’s writing is just for you, and is not intended to be shared.  What are you sometimes a slave to?  What does that feel like?  Who is the master? What keeps you enslaved?  (If you find yourself resisting this prompt, you might find that sarcasm and humor are good vehicles to a darker territory.)
  5. Think of a time you felt radically free.  This might be recent, this might be a time from your past.  Describe that moment as you would a scene in a movie.  Where were you?  Were you alone or with others?  What was happening in your body?  What made it frightening, liberating, exhilarating? If you would like a second part to this prompt, write about what you might do now in your life to create this feeling for yourself or someone else.
  6. Coming Out of Egypt By Chagit Akerma

Not with a mighty hand
And not with an outstretched arm
And not with great awe
And not with signs
And not with wonders
But rather with hesitation,
with small steps, dreading darkness
With softness
While cleaving
With intention
With precision
With love
Carrying small signs like the wrinkles of time
Passing, and the shift of seasons, my changing body, the pearls of
My longing.
Coming out of Egypt.
How are you “coming out of Egypt”?

7. Enough is Enough by Michael McClintock

Enough is Enough –
Painting the old house
I stop at the eaves
Deciding to keep them
Cobwebbed and Beautiful.
Write your own poem, beginning with the line “Enough is enough…”

 8.Where Many Rivers Meet by David Whyte

 Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
until now.
Until now.
Write your own response to this poem, perhaps beginning with  “Until now” or “Enough.”

9. Lao Tzu wrote, “One who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” What are different ways “enough” is used in this text?  What does this text bring up for you? 



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